NSC report spotlights the need to expand workplace mental health services

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Itasca, IL — The mental health needs of workers changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, National Safety Council President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in the announcement of a new report on employers’ response to COVID-19.

COVID-19 Workplace Lessons Learned and Future Actions for a SAFER Tomorrow is a product of the council’s SAFER initiative, aimed at helping employers prioritize workplace safety amid the pandemic.

NSC surveyed, interviewed and conducted group discussions with more than 1,600 employers and 7,000-plus workers between November and August. The participants provided insight on topics such as worker health and well-being, workplace safety, control measures, vaccine uptake and hesitancy, and employer vaccine policies.

Findings show that half of large employers saw an increase in mental health or impairment-related absences and incidents. Meanwhile, 25% of organizations with an employee assistance program implemented that program during the pandemic, while 66% expanded their offerings.

NSC notes that feeling unsafe at work – physically or psychologically – is associated with negative mental health outcomes. Results of a recent survey show that people who felt unsafe at work were two to three times more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders than those who didn’t. The report offers multiple recommendations for prioritizing worker mental health and well-being.

“The loss of office, outside social interactions and child care support, as well as hybrid work and higher overall stress, made burnout a more prominent threat to U.S. workforces,” Martin said. “The impacts to mental health we have seen over the past few years are long term, and so too should be employers’ efforts to support their employees.”