How Employee Mental Health During the Pandemic Impacts Employers

By Sherri Bennett, SPHR & SHRM-CP on Jan 28, 2021
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businessman with mental health challenges due to COVID-19

Employee health, wellbeing, and engagement are well documented as being beneficial to the success of the organizations they work to build and grow. The flip side of that coin is when the workforce is struggling with health, wellbeing, and engagement, productivity and job satisfaction suffer and it affects the whole organization. A recent survey by New York HR services company Hibob’s showed a 33% drop in overall wellbeing and a 27% drop in mental wellness since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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In addition to struggling financially because of a loss of customers due to the pandemic, employee shortages and interruptions in supply chains were just a couple more ways businesses were hard hit in 2020 (and continuing into 2021). Now, one of the biggest challenges employers face in safeguarding the mental health of employees facing ongoing fear, depression, fatigue, anger, stress, and confusion amid the specter of the coronavirus pandemic. Workforce mental health impacts productivity, morale, and business survival. 

Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace in 2022

Impact on Productivity 

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that employee mental health problems impact employers directly by decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and decreased profits. Mental health issues, and the resulting stress, cause poor productivity and human error, leading to increases in absence, staff turnover, and accidents. In addition to anxiety, depression, poor concentration, and decision-making, stress can turn into physical ailments including back pain, headaches, heart disease, and gastrointestinal complications. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that symptoms of stress from strong emotions about the pandemic can cause irritation, anger, anxiety, feeling tired and overwhelmed, sadness, depression, trouble sleeping and concentrating, and a whole range of fears. 

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One important indicator of lost productivity due to mental health issues is days away from work. Harvard Mental Health Letter explains that mental health disorders can cause absenteeism and lost productivity and that employees with the most common mental issues lost between 22 and 35 workdays per year because of them. Another factor in lost productivity due to mental health issues is lack of treatment. For example, Harvard explains that only about half of employees with major depression symptoms reported getting treatment for it. 

A workforce struggling with these issues needs help to work optimally. The National Network for Information, Guidance and Training on the Americans with Disabilities Act reports that assistance such as employee assistance programs, disability resource groups, clear messages from the employer that workers with mental health issues are respected, and overall awareness of how mental health issues are perceived and handled in the workplace support employees dealing with mental health issues. 

Enduring the HR Impacts of COVID19

Impact on Business Survival 

The ongoing pandemic's effect on employee mental health has a definite impact on business success and survival. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that manufacturing, health care, and professional, scientific, and technical services employers say they are struggling to adapt to remote work. Nearly 75% of employers say they have a problem maintaining employee morale. A third of employers have problems staying compliant with COVID leave requirements, managing the volume of leave requests, and handling changing employee productivity. 

RELATED: Addressing Mental Health as Employees Return To the Workplace >>

The coronavirus pandemic has made it more important than ever for employers to help their employees with mental health issues. Learn about ways to support employee mental health in this recent Axcet blog post.

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