How to manage workplace stress that’s ‘fundamentally changed’ since COVID
The way employers view mental health may have changed for good after the pandemic, according to experts, as more Americans suffering from stress, anxiety, and isolation reached out for help.
"Many of these feelings show up in our workplaces," said Amber Clayton, the knowledge center director of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). That's "fundamentally changed our workplaces."
Last year, the volume of calls to the helpline manned by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) jumped 70% over 2019, while one-third of employers reported an increase in requests for information about Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide mental health services, according to Clayton.
The pandemic "has really shined a light on mental health issues and things that are happening with our employees," Clayton said. "There's definitely more awareness now of mental health being an issue as far as potentially affecting job performance or being more empathetic to the employees about what's happening."
Many employers offer EAPs that provide tools and resources to help employees seek the care they need. Some employees may miss this benefit when they start a new job because they're overloaded with benefits information. Others may forget it's available.
To find out if an employer has this benefit, Clayton suggests checking in with your human resources department. If your employer doesn't have the benefit, check with your health insurance provider, which may offer a similar service.
While 1 in 5 people struggle each year with a mental health condition, according to NAMI, many are reluctant to reach out for help — especially from an employer — because they feel a stigma still remains.
Clayton hopes that changes.
"It's about educating our employees as to what the programs are about and that [there] is confidentiality." she said, noting most managers don't even know if an employee is seeking mental health care.
"Company culture starts from the top down," said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr., noting executives should model behavior that reduces that stigma and prioritizes mental health, while employers provide access to adequate mental health service.
"Not only because younger generations are beginning to demand it, but because it is the right thing to do," he said. "It is good for their workers, and it is good for business.”
Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her latest:
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