By Cherri Lindquist, BSN, RN, CCM, clinical nurse manager of Company Nurse LLC

COVID-19 has vastly impacted our way of life and led organizations to re-think how they approach the health and safety of their workplace — including employees’ mental health.

Here, we discuss the impact of COVID-19 and employees’ mental health and what you can do to protect both your employees and your organization.

COVID-19 and the Employee Experience

COVID-19 has transformed employees’ experiences. At Company Nurse, prior to the pandemic, we received many stress calls; for example, teachers calling to report bullying from coworkers. Now, we receive stress calls for the fear of exposure to the virus and adversity to new processes. We’ve even received calls from teachers with considerations of early retirement or change of career.

New and veteran employees — and everyone in-between— have faced unique challenges. For example, those who are new in their careers are looking to prove themselves but may be having difficulty doing so in the virtual workplace. These employees may feel that they lack structure and could have difficulties establishing relationships with co-workers. Relationships that could have helped them to find a mentor.

On the other hand, more-experienced and, more likely, older employees may be at higher risk for COVID-19. These employees may have fears about exposure in the in-person workplace. However, the physical safety of the virtual workplace requires navigating technology in the virtual workplace, which can cause mental distress.

The Impact of Employees’ Mental Health

The anxiety and mental distress caused by COVID-19 may be present for a long time to come. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Two-thirds of employees report that poor mental health has undercut their job performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 40% of employees are battling burnout.”

Paula Allen, global leader, research and total wellbeing and a senior vice-president at LifeWorks, a leading multinational Employee Assistance Program provider, explains, “We’ve already seen it negatively affect employee productivity, turnover, and early retirement. In addition, mental illness can lead to physical illness which, in turn, can lead to increases in absences and health insurance costs.”

Allen expands, “People and regulators are paying attention to the actions of organizations, increasing accountability. Unions may also be placing more pressure on employers to provide mental health resources to employees. Parents may choose their children’s school districts based on the level of mental health resources for the teachers and staff.”

Mental health is also gaining attention in the workers’ comp industry. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), there are “approximately 40 bills addressing workers compensation for mental injuries. This includes more than 30 bills related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

And it’s not just external parties that are holding organizations accountable to provide mental health resources – organizations are doing it themselves. According to the APA, employees can expect this care from their employers, as ” 54% of employers will offer free or low-cost virtual mental health visits in 2021.”

The Process Your Employees Need

The pandemic has transformed people’s use of digital tools, making it easier to access care. More and more organizations are providing employees with access to teledocs, tele-therapy, webinars, and other resources not just for physical health, but mental health as well.

However, while employers do provide many resources for mental health, there may be a barrier of confusion preventing employees from accessing the care that they need. Employees need to be empowered and educated.

At Company Nurse, we understand this, and has developed a new workplace health and safety digital solution. This digital tool provides employees with a simple and quick way to access their organization’s health and safety services.

Company Nurse can help you protect your employees and your organization with its workplace health and safety digital solution. Email sales@companynurse.com to learn how!

To learn more about LifeWorks, visit https://us.lifeworks.com/.