It doesn’t take much imagination to predict that parents who have already spent five months working at home with children present — or trying to find child care while schools and daycares were closed — might soon reach a breaking point as the pandemic drags on. A troubling 85% of employers we surveyed in August are concerned about their employees’ mental health and wellness amid school-schedule disruptions this fall.
Almost half (49%) put employee mental health in their top three concerns, often citing the ongoing stress of “trying to juggle everything” — and the anxiety and depression that can result. Female employees have been especially hard hit by school disruptions, erasing gains in equality and endangering their families’ financial well-being.
As evidence of the mounting pressure, more than half (58%) of employers said employees had been increasing their use of the mental health or wellness benefits offered at work, and two-thirds (67%) said they thought usage would increase even more in the coming months.
Many indicators of employee stress were worrying global mental health experts even before the pandemic. “Lifestyle and stress-related illnesses had been surpassing communicable diseases, and burnout was reclassified by the World Health Organization as a workplace condition and occupational risk rather than a health condition,“ according to Dr. Kristen Lee, Lead Faculty for Behavioral Science at Northeastern University.
The pandemic has accelerated the arrival of the crisis, and coping with it is now a business-critical issue.
“We all have to remember that we’re supporting people through a crisis,” says Tim Arnold. “Work/life balance has blurred, isolation can take an emotional toll, childcare and elder care have become more difficult and dealing with these new challenges has impacted productivity. These circumstances require all employers to creatively — and compassionately — develop programs, services and benefits to help employees through this unexpected moment in history.”
Fortunately, nearly two in three (61%) employers have plans or offerings in place that specifically address their employees’ mental health needs. The most frequently mentioned offerings include counseling or therapy — often on site and employer-paid; employee assistance programs (EAPs); helplines/hotlines; telemedicine; and additional time off.
These benefits will be critical well into 2021. Because fall is also typically the height of enrollment season, some are concerned that the recent shift to virtual and hybrid worksites will complicate how employees enroll in their benefits. Read on to learn how some employers are changing their communication strategies as a result.
We surveyed 409 employers from August 12 to August 20, 2020, with roughly 100 responses coming from employers in each of four employee-size categories: 1 to 99, 100 to 499, 500 to 1,999 and 2,000+. Respondents were limited to persons involved in employee benefits decision-making or administration at U.S.-based organizations representing a wide variety of industries.