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Workers want employers to do more to address mental health impacts of pandemic: survey

Photo: Photodjo/iStockphoto

San Francisco — Around half of workers say their employer isn’t doing enough to address the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance platform provider.

Researchers in April conducted an online survey of 425 full-time employees who have been working remotely throughout the pandemic and were expecting to return to their workplace in the next few months. Around 86% of the respondents said they want their employer to encourage an open dialogue about mental health challenges.

In light of the survey results, a report from Total Brain is intended to help employers prepare for “five mental health challenges that employees are likely to face” when they return to their workplace, and provides takeaway points managers can “put into place to make the transition back to work as smooth as possible.”

Among those challenges are stress and anxiety that may linger after the pandemic subsides. In fact, 1 out of 3 respondents said they’re worried about risking their health by returning to the workplace, including 48% of those who have been vaccinated. According to the report, employers can help by communicating health protocols that will be in place (e.g., air purifiers, physical distancing).

“Many corporate leaders, while caring and empathetic, are not fully aware of the range of issues and challenges their employees are facing; nor the fear employees have about coming forward seeking help,” Total Brain CEO Louis Gagnon said in a press release. “The face of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder is not always what one imagines. Mental health issues are often silent and invisible.”

Employees also might have anxiety about a perceived loss of flexibility in their schedules, especially parents and those carrying for older loved ones. Around 75% of the respondents said that working remotely had a positive effect on their mental health.


The report calls on employers to “develop comprehensive and creative solutions” that include work schedule adjustments and onsite mental health support. For employees working full-time and onsite, the report recommends additional mental health support such as regular one-on-one or team check-ins and offering child care or elder care referrals for employees who need it.

Finally, the report notes that employers should be understanding of the fact some workers might be mentally distracted when returning to the workplace and may have lost some social skills.

“Rather than fighting this tendency, which will increase stress in the environment and actually worsen distraction, employers can take a patient, understanding approach that empowers and inspires workers during the transition,” the report states.

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