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Mental Health: Heading into 2021 in the Shadow of a Pandemic

December 2, 2020 - minute read

The new year is usually a time when people and businesses seek to leave last year’s struggles behind and start anew—with fresh goals, updated business plans, and renewed motivation. However, that’s easier said than done in 2020. Entering the new year under the current pandemic conditions could mean that refreshing “restart” feeling ends up missing entirely.

In August, we learned that mental health and well-being have dropped 33 percent since the start of the pandemic. As your business seeks to approach the new year from a strong place, you must acknowledge the emotional well-being and ongoing mental health needs of all your employees. They will likely be greater and more varied moving forward.

Given the current standing of mental health amid the pandemic, let’s discuss the areas of concern for your hourly workforce and how you can help support employees properly as we transition into a new year.

Deteriorating Mental Health in 2020

In order to help your employees positively transition into 2021, it is beneficial to understand the effects the pandemic is having on your workforce—especially when it comes to their emotional and mental well-being. According to the Limeade study on employee care, since the start of the pandemic:

  • 49 percent of employees have reported having less energy for nonwork activities;
  • 42 percent have noted less interest in socializing with friends;
  • 42 percent have cited more trouble sleeping; and
  • 33 percent have acknowledged increased alcohol or substance use.

These numbers aren’t even addressing the more serious mental health crises that have also escalated in response to COVID-19, including psychological stress, anxiety, and depression. In order to make the most of the new year, these serious inhibitors need to be planned for with care.

How to Support Your Employees’ Mental Health in 2021

Luckily, there are a lot of ways that you can support your employees’ mental health. Not every method will work for each of your employees, though, so you will need to include a variety of approaches, benefits, etc. to support individual needs most effectively.

  • Create a company culture that supports mental health. Transparency throughout your organization is key to creating an environment where employees’ struggles are recognized and where honest communication is possible. Set the example that it’s okay to talk about mental health. Without acknowledging the emotional needs of your workers, the overall productivity, job satisfaction, and success of your operations could be at stake.
  • Allow for scheduling flexibility. This is especially relevant to employees with older family members or disrupted childcare. Allowing flexible work hours without a reduction in pay or allowing employees to start earlier/work later instead will allow them to meet the needs of their children, reduce their overall stress, and build morale in light of so many uncertainties.
  • Make sure your employees are aware of mental health benefits. Educate your workforce on the benefits offered by your organization and make it easy for them to get in contact with the appropriate HR personnel if they have questions. If your business doesn’t offer a pandemic-specific employee assistance program (EAP), it might be beneficial to consider including one in 2021.
  • Allow more frequent breaks. If you manage an hourly workforce, you likely have a strict policy on how many times and how long employee breaks can be. However, allowing for more frequent breaks (or finding creative ways to structure in more stress-relief throughout the day) can have extremely positive results. Consider holding events outside where people are well-spaced or investing in break areas so they can better serve employees’ ability to decompress.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate employees’ efforts. Recognizing workers is huge for getting them through this difficult time. That includes tangibly showing appreciation. Providing cash bonuses, small gifts, onsite food, or even delivering meals to workers' homes are some of the ways you can help keep employees' spirits up. The key is to emphasize that your employees are not alone and should feel valued as part of your organization.
  • Focus on your managers. In many ways, managers have taken on the majority of the overall stress created by the COVID crisis. Many have felt an intense amount of pressure and responsibility for their teams and how their groups are doing emotionally. In terms of mental health, they continue to operate as the prime source of support for many, so make sure you are checking in with them regularly and providing whatever additional support you can to them.

Managing Mental Health with an Hourly Workforce

Nearly one-third—32 percent— of employers plan to increase mental health benefits for employees in response to COVID-19. Is your operation prepared? EPAY’s Human Capital Management system has a variety of features for assisting with the mental health management associated with COVID-19.

Consider our benefits administration solution (including an employee portal for easy benefits reference), our HR consulting services for managing complicated circumstances, or our Learning Management System for uploading custom training videos on how to recognize signs of mental stress in employees. Check out a demo today!

Filed Under: Employee Benefits Learning and Development COVID-19