Every year, millions of Americans navigate mental health challenges. For many, COVID-19 has exacerbated existing conditions. Others are faced with new feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. During these difficult times, the importance of self-care and mental health awareness has become tantamount.

The workplace can provide its own set of mental wellness challenges under normal circumstances, but especially after this past year, it is essential for organizations to be aware of how their employees may be impacted differently. While businesses work tirelessly to keep operations on track, employees are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety:

As the data implies, it is crucial to take care of yourself and your employees. Invest in self-care strategies that benefit both your mental and physical health, especially for employees that are still remote.

Recognize Common Stress and Anxiety Symptoms

Irregular or new behavior changes in yourself or others may indicate the presence of a mental health challenge. It is important to be aware and acknowledge struggles with those you trust.

Some common responses to increased stress and anxiety:

+ Changes in sleep or eating patterns

+ Difficulty sleeping or concentrating

+ Worsening of chronic health problems

+ Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

+ Excessive worrying

+ Increased irritability

+ Fatigue

+ Panic attacks

Understanding the Transition from Remote Work

Nearly half of employees expressed anxiety about returning to a physical workplace. To help decrease anxiety, take action to make your employees’ well-being a focal point.

  • Remain consistent with your company’s values during reentry, and clearly demonstrate how your actions align with employee safety.
  • Share accurate, timely, and transparent communications about your reentry process. Ensure this message is understood by all leadership and that there is a consistent message being shared with all teams.
  • Communicate how you are following all current recommended public health measures.

Additionally, focus on how you are supporting your employees’ well-being and mental health. This can be implemented through a multipronged approach, including promoting your employee assistance program (EAP), as well as resources through your wellbeing program/partner, sharing what is available through your medical plan, providing training for leaders and managers on how to support employees, and teaching all employees to recognize stress and anxiety symptoms.

Regardless of your approach, prioritizing mental health provides support for your employees and can ultimately help your bottom line. Estimates suggest that major depression costs employers between $31 and $51 billion per year in lost productivity. Your workforces’ health and your company’s future both benefit from a focus on mental health.

Easing Stress through Communication

As managers, you can help decrease stress through clear communication. Be ready to listen to your employees, give them space to talk, and provide accommodations or flexibility wherever available.

  • Check-in with employees and tell employees how, when, and how often they should check-in with you
  • Set expectations and be willing to listen to struggles if expectations are not being met
  • If employees are struggling to keep up with workload or expectations, create a plan with them. With children, uncertainty, financial strain, and other extenuating factors, offer as much flexibility while still meeting job demands
  • Remind each other that communication looks different when working remotely
  • Provide instructions to employees on how to find in-network care for mental health

Tools and Resources

If you or someone you know is struggling, there are many resources available to help, even remotely. And please remember, in the case of immediate danger or suicidal thoughts or plans, call 911.

Resources available:

Online tools:

Well-Being Apps for At-Home Use

Mental Health First Aid Basic Tips

Please be advised that any and all information, comments, analysis, and/or recommendations set forth above relative to the possible impact of COVID-19 on potential insurance coverage or other policy implications are intended solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal or medical advice. As an insurance broker, we have no authority to make coverage decisions as that ability rests solely with the issuing carrier. Therefore, all claims should be submitted to the carrier for evaluation. The positions expressed herein are opinions only and are not to be construed as any form of guarantee or warranty. Finally, given the extremely dynamic and rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, comments above do not take into account any applicable pending or future legislation introduced with the intent to override, alter or amend current policy language.

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