Companies worry about employee mental health as workplaces reopen

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Living in a perpetual state of turmoil, uncertainty and grief can test anyone’s sanity. And the events of the past 16 months have delivered it all in spades thanks to a constant stream of horrors, including but not limited to the deadly pandemic, George Floyd murder, the January 6 Capitol uprising and the attacks. against Asian Americans. They have also catapulted employee mental health to the top of the list of concerns and priorities for many employers. Once you’ve been vaccinated, mental health problems don’t go away. And once back in the workplace, mental health issues don’t go away, ”said Sandra Kuhn, National Leader of Behavioral Health. Practice at Mercer Benefits Consulting Firm. If there is one advantage, it is that the taboo of talking about mental health at work has been lifted. In a survey conducted by The Hartford of 1,005 employees, a majority indicated that their company culture has been more tolerant of mental health issues over the past year. “The stigma surrounding mental health is rapidly diminishing. It is now part of the daily conversation. Employers therefore have more visibility into mental distress among their staff, ”said Joe Grasso, senior manager of staff mental health at Lyra Health, which provides employees with access to a network of healthcare professionals. mental health and related resources. Problems related to anxiety and depression are among the most common. conditions that Lyra Health practitioners see in their sessions, Grasso said. And there has been an increase in employee searches for race-based trauma care, as well as requests from mental health care providers of color, he noted. Although many employers have planned to provide mental health services, they are now stepping up these offers. by providing them with easier and more efficient access, by doing more to educate employees about mental health, and by training managers to communicate with their teams about available resources, Kuhn said. Employers also offer education on alcohol and substance use disorders, she added. Many people drank more to cope with stress, and drug use has also increased, with the highest annual number of opioid overdose deaths reported in 2020. Mercer has also seen an increase in insurance claims for treatment of substance use disorders. by their clients’ employees and their families, noted Kuhn. Here’s how managers can approach mental health issues with their teams. Recognizing the Signs It’s important for managers to have a sense of what it means to feel anxious or anxious. depressed so they can better guide an employee to resources that might help, Kuhn said. Signs of distress include any change in behavior, mood, productivity or commitment, according to Mercer. This can mean more absences, increased anger or irritation, or difficulty concentrating. Say the right thing. It’s best to ask open-ended questions, then learn to listen carefully to the ideas of the answers, Kuhn recommended. Always indicate objective and observable behavior that opens up a conversation, Grasso added. “I noticed you were crying after the meeting” or “I noticed you seem really distracted lately.” And then be empathetic. ” I worried. Is there anything I can do to help? You can then inform that person of potentially useful resources available to them. But don’t become a therapist. Your job is not to treat someone, but to point fingers. the resource person, ”noted Grasso. Be proactive While it’s important to react to a situation when it arises, it’s just as important to be proactive in educating your team about available mental health resources, Kuhn said. Or you can share your own experience with the mental health issues you have encountered. had over the past year, said Grasso. And model of self-care, he recommended. For example, you could announce to your team, “I’m taking a mental health day on Monday. Be accommodating when possible The most recent stressor for many employees – as it involves overwhelming routines that they have worked hard to build since the start of the pandemic – will be to be working on site again, than either five days a week or on a new hybrid schedule. While this may not be possible in all situations, Grasso said, “Provide flexibility where you can. This is what worries a lot of people. . ”

Living in a perpetual state of turmoil, uncertainty and grief can test anyone’s sanity.

And the events of the past 16 months have delivered it all in spades thanks to a constant stream of horrors including, but not limited to, the deadly pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, the Capitol Uprising of the 6th January and the attacks on Asian Americans.

They have also catapulted employee mental health to the top of the list of concerns and priorities for many employers.

“[Employers] understand that the impact on mental health will have a long tail. Once vaccinated, mental health problems do not go away. And once back in the workplace, mental health issues don’t go away, ”said Sandra Kuhn, national behavioral health practice manager at benefits consulting firm Mercer.

If there is one advantage, it is that the taboo of talking about mental health at work has been broken. In a survey of 1,005 employees by The Hartford, a majority indicated that their company culture has been more tolerant of mental health issues over the past year.

“The stigma surrounding mental health is rapidly diminishing. It is now part of the daily conversation. This gives employers more visibility into the mental distress of their staff, ”said Joe Grasso, senior manager of staff mental health at Lyra Health, which provides employees with access to a network of mental health professionals and related resources.

Problems related to anxiety and depression are among the most common conditions Lyra Health practitioners see during their sessions, Grasso said. And there has been an increase in employee searches for race-based trauma care, along with requests from mental health care providers of color, he noted.

While many employers have anticipated benefits for mental health services, they are now scaling up these offerings by providing them with easier and more efficient access, doing more to educate employees about mental health, and training managers to communicate. with their teams on resources. available, Kuhn said.

Employers also provide training on alcohol and substance use disorders, she added. Many people drink more to cope with stress, and drug use has also increased, with the highest annual number of opioid overdose deaths reported in 2020.

Mercer has also seen an increase in insurance claims for the treatment of substance use disorders by their customers’ employees and their families, Kuhn noted.

Here’s how managers can approach mental health issues with their teams.

Recognize the signs

It’s important for managers to know what it means to feel anxious or depressed so they can better guide an employee to resources that could help them, Kuhn said.

Signs of distress include any change in behavior, mood, productivity or commitment, according to Mercer. It could mean more absences, increased anger or irritation, or difficulty concentrating.

Say the right thing

It’s best to ask open-ended questions, then learn to listen carefully to get information from the answers, Kuhn recommended.

Always show objective and observable behavior when opening a conversation, Grasso added. “I noticed you were crying after the meeting” or “I noticed you have been looking really distracted lately.”

And then be empathetic. ” I worried. Is there anything I can do to help? “

You can then inform that person of potentially useful resources available to them.

“But don’t become a therapist. Your job is not to treat someone, but to refer the person to resources,” Grasso noted.

be proactive

While it’s important to react to a situation when it arises, it’s just as important to be proactive in educating your team about available mental health resources, Kuhn said.

Or you could share your own experience with mental health issues you’ve had over the past year, said Grasso. And model of self-care, he recommended. For example, you could announce to your team, “I’m taking a mental health day on Monday”.

Be accommodating when possible

The most recent stressor for many employees – since it involves overwhelming routines that they have worked hard to build since the start of the pandemic – will be working on site again, whether it’s five days a week or so. on a new hybrid schedule.

While this may not be possible in all situations, Grasso said, “Offer flexibility where you can. That’s what worries a lot of people.”


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