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Supporting mental health wellness during times of change

August 10, 2021 | 4 min read

It’s no secret that we’ve all experienced monumental change since COVID-19 first surfaced and it’s significantly impacted our mental health. Everyone has needed to adapt, pivot and make changes in their personal and professional lives. We’re now living in a different world than we were in 2019. And now, things are changing again as we face returning to work, kids going back to school and more. 

These changes have impacted businesses as well as people. The need to support employee mental health and well-being has never been so clear, or so highly prioritized.  

But this isn’t a challenge without a solution. Here are five strategies you can use to support mental health wellness for your employees during this time of change.  

Understand how the pandemic impacted your team, including their mental health 

The pandemic impacted everyone, though not equally. People were laid off, many of us had to start working remotely, and parents became teachers and full-time caretakers all while juggling our day-to-day lives.  

The American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 24% of U.S. adults said they or their partner were laid off while 22% of adults said they started working from home. As of February 2021, 85% of parents had at least one child in remote learning. All these factors have contributed to a significantly increased demand for mental healthcare. 

“There has never been a greater need for mental health support,” Brian Wong, MD/MBA, medical director, population health management at Accolade, said.  

Acknowledge that reopening will require your team to adapt again  

People have gone through a turbulent time and in many ways are still struggling. While the pandemic has yet to end, people are increasingly being asked to shift back to how things were pre-pandemic by returning to the office or potentially traveling. Those demands can compound any stress, anxiety or depression that someone is suffering from.  

The mental well-being of your employees impacts their quality of work, the amount of time they’re out of the office and their personal lives. As an employer, you can play a positive role to support your team as whole people, not just employees. This means it’s important to support their physical and mental health and wellness needs — in and out of the office. 

Offer benefits that address both physical and mental health 

It’s important to do your best to support your employees to ensure a happier, healthier workforce now and in the future. Here are some recommendations from Dr. Wong to help your people:  

  • Be proactive

    • Elevate open conversations about mental health in your internal communications to lessen any stigma. This can be done through roundtable discussions or access to wellness groups and other resources, to name a few.  

  • Take a comprehensive approach

    • Understand that your employees may be facing a broad spectrum of mental health issues. Some might be experiencing issues that only marginally impact their productivity or outlook, while others may be facing more serious issues. To address every employee’s needs, take the time to explain your benefits plan so that they know what resources are available to them.  

  • Integrate physical and mental healthcare

    • Accolade embraces a whole person approach to healthcare with collaborative care solutions that improve health outcomes and save your company money. This was confirmed with a 2019 independent study that found healthcare costs for a matched control group rose 8.3% while costs for Accolade customers stayed flat, despite receiving individualized health and benefits support throughout the year. 

End the stigma around mental health   

“We have to prioritize mental health,” Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD and Well Being Trust president, said. 

“This has been a very lonely time for many people. Work events and socializing with neighbors is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Our teams have lots of questions and thoughts.”  

To help your employees feel more comfortable having conversations about mental health:  

  • Acknowledge that taking care of your mental health is as important as your physical well-being

  • Let employees know you understand what they’re going through

  • Understand that everyone has different experiences and reactions

Care for your employees — and their families

“We don’t know what our people have been through,” Miller added. “There might have been a death of a loved one, a divorce or a lot of family strife and challenges. This is something we have to acknowledge.”   

“Because as much as the employee is important to our work, so is their family to their work. Being able to treat the individual and the family at the same time is so crucial to what goes into mental health.” 

Employee morale, job satisfaction and productivity can be increased by supporting your team and their family. By putting the employee and their family at the center of support, everyone wins.  

COVID and mental health

As we continue to navigate the challenges of COVID, it’s important to recognize and prioritize your team’s mental health. Implementing these strategies can help you guide your employees in getting the care they need when it comes to their, and their families, physical and mental health well-being. 

To learn more about how you can support your team, watch Dr. Wong and Dr. Miller’s webinar on mental health wellness during times of change.

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