Supporting mental health in the workplace. New research highlights how employees are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic and how employers can better support mental health.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the coronavirus pandemic has left almost everyone feeling anxious and stressed out about the future.

Nearly 1 in 4 feel employees report feeling down, depressed or hopeless often and over 40 percent feel burnt out, drained, or exhausted from their work, according to research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Almost 40 percent of them haven’t done anything to cope with these feelings and only 7 percent have reached out to a mental health professional. 

“It’s a timely reminder that there’s more to this crisis than new cases and economic costs,” said SHRM President and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. “COVID-19 is taking a toll on our minds and emotions in a million little ways. Now, more than ever, employers should double down against stigmas and guarantee employees know of the resources, benefits, and accommodations available.”  

Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace During COVID-19

The first step to supporting employee mental health is acknowledging it directly. Harvard Business Review found it shocking that 40 percent of employers hadn’t asked employees how they’re doing since the pandemic began. They suspect it’s because employers want to respect the privacy of their employees, but 40 percent of employees want their manager to be the one to broach the subject of mental health.

Letting employees know you’re aware of the mental and emotional challenges they’re facing during the coronavirus pandemic starts to wear down the stigma that there’s something wrong with being depressed, anxious, or struggling with mental health. It’ll make them feel more supported and they’ll be more likely to reach out and ask for help if they’re having a hard time. 

When an employee opens up about something they’re struggling with it’s important to listen before reacting. Then, remind them of the mental health resources your organization has available and follow up with them in the next few weeks to see how they’re doing. 

Nearly 60 percent of employees struggling with mental health said their employer doesn’t offer mental health programs that meet their needs, or that the programs they do offer are too difficult to access or understand, according to a survey by MetLife. 

Reassess your organization’s mental health benefits offerings, observe usage rates and if they’re low, determine if it’s an issue of benefits communications or if the benefits themselves don’t fit the needs of workers. But first, if you haven’t already, ask your employees how they’re doing as the coronavirus pandemic continues. 

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