Despite the mindset from some employers that it’s time to return to the office, resuming business as usual could be damaging to employees’ mental health.
The latest Mental Health Index by Total Brain and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions revealed that employees are still struggling with high levels of pandemic PTSD, as well as poor attention spans. Risk for PTSD was 121% higher than pre-pandemic levels, leading to increased risk for other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and substance use disorder.
While employers (and even some employees) may be eager to return to pre-pandemic norms, employers must tread carefully in order to support workers who may be struggling with these mental health challenges.
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“Employees are highly vulnerable to uncertainty and change right now,” Mathew Mund, CEO of Total Brain, said in a release. “The strong correlation between PTSD and other mental health concerns means that employees’ and employers’ ability to assess and monitor mental health is more important than ever.”
In addition to pandemic-related concerns around safety and reopenings, employees are also grappling with the stress associated with current world events, like the war in Ukraine. These back-to-back stressors make the risk of PTSD even greater for employees who may have already been susceptible.
“Workers have become even more vulnerable after enduring a period of sustained stress over the past couple of years,” Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO, said in the release. “Recent turmoil — domestically and globally — has triggered renewed concerns about their mental health and well-being.”
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The Mental Health Index did show some improvement in rates of depression and anxiety. Employees reported a 35% drop in risk for general anxiety disorder, as well as a 37% drop in risk for depressive disorder from 2021’s rates.
But employers must continue to be vigilant in supporting employees with policies and benefits that address these concerns. TD Bank, for example, is working to transition their employees to a voluntary hybrid schedule, and is continuing to offer mental health services and ERG support, the bank’s executive vice president of HR, Jennifer Young, told EBN in a previous report.
“What we’re seeing is one anxiety is replaced by another,” Young says. “We just can’t seem to get out of a bad place, and as an employer, we’re trying to provide those resources. We ground all of our decisions in what is the right thing for our customers and colleagues. Happy employees are engaged employees, and engaged employees produce better work.”