Employee mental health is always important and employers should prioritize their employees’ well-being during COVID-19. However, there might be some disconnect between employers and their workforce when it comes to this topic.
Businessolver’s “State of Workplace Empathy Study” found that while 86% of CEOs believe their organization openly discusses the importance of mental health with their employees, just 58% of employees feel this way. Additionally, the survey found that 69% of employees believe that all levels of their company are empathetic towards employee mental health.
“The need for increased understanding between all coworkers, added resources from employers, and more visibility of existing programming is clearer and more urgent than ever,” writes Jon Shanahan, CEO of Businessolver. “Yet given the challenges of maintaining a business in the current climate, how can employers answer this demand?”
The survey revealed that employees fear coming forward about mental health issues, as 64% report a concern that transparency about mental health issues could impact job security.
Organizations could also stand to improve communication around their mental health benefits offerings. The survey found that 76% of CEOs said their organization currently offers mental health benefits but only 51% of employees report awareness of them. Nearly all employees (92%) agree that employers should be doing more, which was echoed by 100% of HR professionals surveyed.
“These responses make clear that organizations must now find empathetic and effective ways to support the mental health and overall well-being of their workforce,” Shanahan writes.
Shanahan and Businessolver provided a list of actions employers can take to improve the mental health and well-being of their employees.
- Start openly discussing mental health. This must begin at the top and cascade throughout the organization. Leaders need to create a culture of openness and inclusion, one that encourages and provides avenues for people to share openly as needed. In fact, 93% of employees said that an open-door policy that allows face-to-face communication with leadership or HR is important to addressing employee mental health.
- Build empathy by connecting employees. It has, of course, become more challenging to connect with each other during this time, but that doesn’t mean that employers don’t have tools at their disposal. For those working remotely, consider arranging for employees to match with a “coffee buddy” within the organization. Encourage buddies to hold virtual personal check-ins and promote open lines of communications. Organizations employing frontline workers might consider creating regular team check-ins for discussing the emotional aspects of the day-to-day.
- Enact meaningful benefits programs. Employers should expect these mental health challenges to continue to some degree after the COVID-19 pandemic passes and we all adjust to a new normal. Now is the time to review the mental health benefits your organization offers. This entails everything from the cost of co-pays for therapy visits (virtually, or, eventually, in person) to the availability of an Employee Assistance Program resource or a mental health service app.
About the Author
Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.