The COVID-19 pandemic has brought extraordinary stress to everyone across the world, and particularly their work and professional lives as they try to adapt to constantly changing circumstances.
According to the ‘Third Annual Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health’ report by on-demand mental health tech company Ginger, 70% of employees reported feeling more stress during the pandemic than ever before in their careers. In addition, 58% said COVID-19 was still their biggest stressor at work in 2021.
For the report, Ginger surveyed almost 1,300 full time employees in the US and more than 150 CEOs in February 2021.
CEOs also expressed concerns about their employees’ mental health. Ginger found that 92% of CEOs said their companies were more focused on mental health due to the pandemic and 94% said employee mental health was a C-suite issue, not just an HR issue.
In addition, 80% of CEOs said that poor employee mental health negatively impacted worker productivity and 69% were concerned about their employees’ mental wellbeing.
Ultimately, CEOs and staff agree that mental health should be a top priority for employers. As a result, businesses have increasingly provided technology-support mental healthcare during the pandemic.
The number of individuals using mental health apps jumped from 29% pre-COVID-19 to 48% in 2021, according to the survey. Also, 95% of those staff who received mental health support in the past year reported it helped them at work; this increased to 98% for CEOs.
However, Ginger found there is a disagreement about the adequacy of employer-provided mental health benefits and services.
According to Ginger’s survey, while 96% of executives believe their companies are doing enough for the mental health of their workforce, only 69% of employees agree. Also, although 92% of CEOs said they were more focused on mental health because of COVID-19, only 57% of employees agreed.
In addition, while 69% of CEOS said they were accepting of mental health issues in the workplaces, only 35% of employees believed this to be true.
Further, the survey noted that while 98% of CEOs said their company offered mental health benefits, only 55% of employees said their company does.
The discrepancy in perspective between employees and CEOs was even starker for large companies. While 73% of staff at companies with between 1,000 and 5,000 employees said their employer did enough to support their mental health, this dropped to 64% for companies with between 5,000 and 25,000 employees. This declined further to 58% for those working at companies employing more than 25,000 people.
What does the future look like?
While employees reported being more stressed at work then ever before, they also noted the positives of working from home.
The survey found that 99% benefitted from working from home during the pandemic.
This was because it allowed them to spend more time with their family or pets, as well as having more time for themselves, it was easier to take breaks, there was no commute, it was easier to exercise and eat properly, and they had privacy during any difficult moments.
Ginger also found that 63% of CEOs reported that COVID-19 has been positive for their mental health.
As a result, 95% of employees are optimistic about 2021 and what work will look like.
They reported optimism about life becoming more normal (64%), looking forward to visiting family and friends (52%), having plans for personal growth in 2021 through education and travel (42%), and less political drama because it is no longer a US election year (38%).
Despite this optimism, Ginger emphasized there are enduring challenges facing employers and the wellbeing of their workforce. Stress levels among the workforce remain high and employees are becoming reliant on technology-based mental health support.
Ginger CEO Russell Glass noted: “Our data shows that this is truly the ‘last-mile’ challenge in mental healthcare. As we strive to create a world where mental health is never an obstacle, employers have a critical role in de-stigmatizing mental health, and ensuring their teams know how to get help.”
Mental wellbeing recommendations
Therefore, Ginger advises that employers need to invest in a mental health benefit as part of their package, if they haven’t already.
Further to this, CEOs and businesses need to communicate their mental health offerings to employees better.
The Ginger report states:
“If you’ve done the work to find the right mental health benefit, make sure employees know about that benefit. Develop a strong communications plan that connects mental health to employees’ everyday needs.”
Open discussion is another recommendation from Ginger. It advises that leaders should take the lead with this and normalize discussions about mental health struggled and self-care. Companies also need to promote a work-life balance – such as through policies like no emails on weekends, flexible working hours, and mental health days for employees.
This is something that some companies have started to take on board – for instance, last week, investment bank Citi introduced Zoom-free Fridays and an extra day of paid leave for its staff to allow them to achieve a better work-life balance.