The impact of COVID on mental health in the workplace, explained


Your workplace is probably very different than it was in 2019. In some ways, that’s probably fine (hi, favorite sweatpants). And in others it may not be (hi, Burnout). Because the pandemic has changed our Mental Health and the workplace. See: Big resignation and quiet stop.

And according to the Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Vivek MurthyAmericans are in the middle of a mental health crisis. And work, ie the place where you spend the most time, can play an important role. So our “Skim this“The podcast team sat down with Dr Murthy to talk about the state of Mental Health in offices (and Zooms) across the country. And what the government is doing about it.

How bad is workplace mental health?

According to new data from the Office of the Surgeon General, 84% of Americans who responded to a recent survey said that at least one workplace factor had a negative impact on their mental health. And 81% wanted look for jobs who prioritized their mental health and well-being. Although the pandemic shares much of the blame, Dr Murthy said that was not what triggered the crisis.

“I am very concerned about the mental health and well-being of our country,” he said. “We certainly struggled during this pandemic, but with mental health, our struggles began even before the pandemic.”

To combat this problem, the office of the Surgeon General recently released new guidelines for offices and workplaces. They highlight the “five essentials of mental health in the workplace” to better support the mental health of their employees.

So what are the five essentials to protect mental health at work?

According to Dr. Murthy and the Surgeon General’s Office, your workplace should offer:

  • Protection from evil. “People in the workplace want to be physically and psychologically safe,” Dr Murthy said, “but they also want access to mental health support while they’re there. This pillar also includes the promotion the diversityensuring that employees can obtain sufficient rest (Hello, PTO), and the normalization of mental health support.

  • Connection and community. “It turns out that having strong social ties [and] a sense of community in our workplace is extremely important and acts as a buffer against stress,” he said. Think: Join the company book club or go to happy hour.

  • Work-life harmony. “That means paid vacationflexibility in schedules, [and] respecting work-life boundaries,” he said. Read: Taking mental health days, being able to go to appointment at the doctor’s without worrying about missing work and not responding to work emails after hours.

  • Count at work. “And it’s not just about expressing gratitude, but about giving workers a voice at the table when decisions are made,” he said. Also part of this: Providing a living wage.

  • Opportunities for growth. “To ensure that we have the chance to learn, to grow, to train ourselves, [and] develop [in the workplace] is absolutely essential,” said Dr. Murthy. Think: Access to training or mentors to help you strengthen your skills and grow within your company.

Great. How do we implement them?

It’s a team effort, according to Dr. Murthy. “There is an important role for the workplace, but others have a role to play here as well,” he said. “It demands that all of us in society – government, workplaces, educational institutions, individuals – all ask what we can do to help tackle mental health.”

One of the ways the federal government helps: invest in and expand access to mental health care. “By helping to invest in the workforce, in telemedicine, using technology to make care available remotely,” he said, “it can also help workplaces make those options more easily accessible to their workers”.

So what can I do to change the culture of mental health in my workplace?

Even if you’re not part of your company’s C-suite, Dr. Murthy said there are still ways to make a difference:

  • Be a positive leader. “If you’re a middle manager in a company, you have people whose lives you impact,” he said. “In this group, you have the power to make changes. How you foster community, how you help people know they matter, how you provide the kind of feedback that helps people grow.

  • Talk about mental health with your colleagues. “If you are a worker who is impacted by what the people above you are doing, you can share this type of framework with them and ask them if they are also important to them, if they find that these five elements essentials are present in their workplace,” said Dr Murthy.

  • Offer feedback to your manager. If you know your workplace lacks some (or all) of the five essentials, Dr. Murthy suggested asking your manager how they can start implementing them.

PS: To learn more about our conversation with Dr. Murthy, listen to the interview below.


Taking care of your mental health isn’t just about bubble baths and long walks. It’s also about having the ability to adjust your work schedule, take paid time off, and being part of a safe and inclusive work environment.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition.


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