Your employees are trying hard to cope during these challenging times, but data shows that they are hurting and need help coping.
With change and innovation happening almost daily in the world around them, your employees have become incredibly adaptable. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most people took a deep breath and focused on getting through it, often in creative, ingenious, and fun ways. However, try as they might, the pandemic and the isolation, uncertainties, financial challenges, and feelings of loss caused by it have taken their toll. A new survey shows the impact on your employees mental health and what you can do to help.
Among the highlights:
- Stress levels among American workers have increased 38% since the first week of February.
- Anxiety levels have increased 54% from February to April; and feelings of depressive mood increased 61% during that same timeframe.
- Younger adults (between ages 20 and 39) reported more intense feelings of stress, anxiety, and depressed mood, followed by middle-aged people (ages 40-59).
- People over 40 had the greatest increase in depressive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and addiction since February, with a nearly five-fold increase in the number of individuals 60 and older experiencing PTSD symptoms.
Lower-income Americans reported the highest levels of emotional distress (33%), followed closely by those experiencing job or income loss (29%), and those with a steady income (21%). Individuals who view the virus as a risk to their personal health were twice as likely to consider it a major threat than those who didn’t.
According to survey authors, the negative impact of the pandemic on mental health can hurt people’s performance at work. They may experience reduced focus and sustained attention, poor memory, lack of interest in life and social interaction, irritability, reduced resilience, and increased alcohol or drug use/abuse.
Contributing to these issues during the pandemic are changes in routine, with no end in sight. You can help your employees by establishing and maintaining new normals and routines. For instance, enable team members to enjoy coffee and doughnuts with colleagues virtually or in-person with social distancing. Give out gift cards so people can shop online for fun items such as books, music, or toys. Livestream concerts and performances. Have regular staff meetings virtually or with physical distancing. Give people opportunities to pursue training and education.
Disruptions in coping mechanisms also contribute to depression, stress, and anxiety. For instance, your workers can’t go to the gym or to church. As much as possible, make sure everyone has access to the devices and technology to virtually attend church, participate in fitness classes, be part of support groups, and communicate with friends and family.
Let everyone on your teams know that they can come to you or another leader if they need help or just want to talk. Conduct a culture check-up and remove any stigmas about mental health. Model optimism at work, but don’t be ashamed to seek help for your own feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, or grief.