Today’s post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.
Here in the United States, May is Mental Health Month. Since 1949, Mental Health America (MHA) and affiliates across the country have used Mental Health Month to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in Americans’ lives, and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. As part of this month-long observance, MHA reaches out to millions of people through the media, local events, screenings and via their annual toolkit.
I don’t personally ever remember a time when there was more of a focus on mental health than there is right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages, causing increased anxiety, stress, substance abuse, and isolation. It has been an incredibly difficult time. Because of this, it’s more important than ever to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help.
Employers bear some responsibility here. A good employer knows that it can’t function optimally without its people being healthy and happy. That is why the focus on mental and physical wellness programs has grown over the years. It’s a topic we’ve been paying attention to at The Workforce Institute for some time now, and in recognition of Mental Health Month, we’re sharing five of our favorite articles on the topic.
This October 2020 post from board member Dan Schawbel points out that three out of every four workers have struggled with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and 80 percent would consider quitting their current job for one that focused more on employee mental health. Dan’s article goes on to cite research showing that most people are more comfortable using technology to assist with mental health because it provides a judgment-free zone (34%), is an unbiased outlet to share their problems (30%), and provides quick answers to their health-related questions (29%).
In April of 2020, board member Dennis Miller was already perceiving the mental health challenges emerging. This article focuses on the need for managers and organizations to pay special attention to the emotional and mental health impact the COVID-19 crisis has had at all levels of the organization, particularly among young millennials and Gen Zers who may not have experienced a national or world crisis before.
Just before the pandemic struck, we issued our 2020 workplace predictions and top of the list was “Wholistic employee wellness takes center stage as total rewards strategies drive recruitment and retention in a tight economy.” We noted that competition to attract and retain top talent – both for office and frontline workers – would further compel employers to expand and innovate total rewards packages that support employees in and outside the workplace. “Ever-increasing natural disasters and crises will challenge employers to prepare and respond with efficiency and compassion” – wish that last part hadn’t turned out to be quite so prescient.
This post from board member Natalie Bickford focuses on five actionable steps anyone can take to improve their physical and mental health while working from home during the pandemic – as so many of us were and still are. At the close, Natalie notes, “My final thought on this topic is don’t feel the need to try to be a superhero! This is a really challenging moment in our history, and we should cut ourselves some slack (and maybe an extra slice of chocolate cake), while also trying to find our own personal way of getting through it.” Good advice then and now!
I wrote this piece at the start of the year focusing on the idea that the organizations that will excel in 2021 will be led by compassionate and inclusive management that emphasizes empathy, wellness, and belonging. In it, I quote from a great piece by Nika White in Entrepreneur magazine that revealed that 53% of adults are experiencing higher levels of stress and worry because of current events; Issues of stress and anxiety in the workplace are nothing new — especially among women, people of color and other marginalized groups; and the more your staff feels supported, acknowledged and understood, the more they can positively contribute to your business.
I hope you find these articles helpful to your work and your life. I think if anything, Mental Health Awareness Month is a great opportunity for all of us to spend some time thinking about how we can be better to ourselves and those around us. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that we’re all in this together, and the better we take care of ourselves and each other, the more successful we will be as individuals and organizations.