Group Gordon’s Morgan Schare shares guidance for businesses for communicating about mental health resources to their employees.
As businesses plan for the next phase of the pandemic and what that means for work, it’s critical that they plan for the mental health and wellness concerns of their employees. According to a recent report by the CDC, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from January 2020 to February 2021, demonstrating the impact COVID-19 has had on mental wellbeing. As businesses plan for prolonged remote, hybrid, or in-person work, they must recognize that everything can’t just go back to business as usual. They should be ready to implement plans, policies, and programs to preempt and handle employees’ mental health issues. What follows are considerations for employers for communicating about mental health initiatives to employees.
Even as the pandemic recedes, communicating mental health services directly to employees should remain a key priority. The transition to remote work forced employers to be more explicit and straightforward in their communications, both internally and externally. Conversations surrounding mental health and wellness that businesses shied away from pre-pandemic were brought to the fore, resulting in 45% of survey respondents feeling more comfortable asking for help at work compared to 38% pre-pandemic. The pandemic presented employers with the opportunity to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and provide necessary support to employees, with 28% of people reporting that their employer has become more supportive of mental health issues over the course of the pandemic.
Businesses need to consistently remind employees of the resources that are available to them – not just list them in a rarely referenced benefits guide. They can communicate these resources in a variety of ways, including in a company-wide newsletter, during staff meetings, and on internal company channels that employees use. Communicating mental health services is not only critical for employees, but it’s also critical to the growth and success of the business. According to a study conducted by Lyra Health, employees that don’t think their employer supports their mental health are twice as likely to be considering a career change. By communicating mental health services effectively, employees will know about the support the company provides and how they can access it, which will benefit team health, well-being, and morale.
According to a recent study conducted by Limeade, 100% of survey respondents reported feelings of anxiety about returning to the physical work environment. To ensure a smooth, less stressful transition back to the office, business leaders need to be transparent about their plans for the next phase of work and actively provide updates to employees in order to get employees comfortable well in advance of bringing everyone back in person. Additionally, business leaders and managers need to listen to employees and implement their asks into return-to-work plans to avoid unnecessary backlash. A recent example of this is Apple employees’ frustration towards CEO Tim Cook who seemingly did not listen to employees when developing Apple’s plan to adopt a hybrid work model. This demonstrates that it’s critical for business leaders not only to communicate their plans but also to engage employees in their planning.
Additionally, business leaders should notify employees about return-to-work plans as early as possible to give employees ample time to make any necessary arrangements, including returning to their primary residence if they’ve been working from a different location. Notifying employees about plans in advance will also help to set expectations. When a concrete plan is developed, business leaders should announce it and provide details in writing. Managers can also set up one-on-one meetings with their team members to get a sense of how they’re feeling about the return to the office to address individual concerns and work to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought conversations about mental health in the workplace to the fore and reduced the stigma attached to issues that so many people face. With employees feeling more comfortable discussing their mental health issues and needs, companies must step up to ensure their employees are supported. By communicating mental health and wellness offerings effectively and addressing return-to-work plans as early as possible, businesses can show their awareness of the challenges people are facing, promote their people’s wellbeing, and enhance morale in the short and long term.