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Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has required employers everywhere to rethink the safety of their employees on a number of levels. However, many do not realize that mental health is a big part of worker health and safety.

Mental health resources are crucial to worker wellbeing at any point in time, but the pandemic has but extra emotional strain on workers. Employers need to seek ways to better help their workers not just with safety precautions like PPE and social distancing and virus testing, but by providing them with the right mental health resources.

The use of mental health metrics in the workplace is a great tool for employers to monitor the wellbeing of workers, said one Forbes article. Mental health metrics provide real-time insights on how the workforce is fairing in the midst of COVID-19 and other disruptive, stressful events. The pandemic has already had a toll on people’s mental health. Now, employers can play a critical role in helping employees help themselves.

One workplace mental health project, the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, co-sponsored by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchasers, HR Policy Alliance and One Mind and produced by Total Brain, helped meet this need.

Every month, the Index presents updated findings from a randomized sampling of hundreds of U.S. workers, across topics like risk for anxiety and depressive disorders, emotional awareness and negativity. The results give employers an ongoing look at how mental health impacts are evolving and where needs are the greatest.

For example, data from July 17 showed that U.S. employees’ risk of Depressive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress and General Anxiety Disorder each increased by at least 40 percent since February. While the reopening of some businesses seemed to help some people emotionally/mentally, the worsening rate of the infection and cases across the country means people will likely be under emotional strain for the long haul.

Mental health is important for workers’ health and safety, of course. But poor mental health among workers can also cost businesses money, time and productivity—and the pandemic is sure to continue to worsen workers’ mental health.

Organizations can take the following three steps to protect workers from infection and mental illness:

  • Provide tools for employees to assess mental health:Give employees privacy, and provide actionable findings and resources. However, you need to provide tools and engage their leaders and managers to actively discuss the importance of mental health, share experience and take advantage of resources. It takes a concerted, long-term effort. For example, employers can provide workers with free access to apps for building emotional resilience, one-on-one or group counseling, and daily drop-in sessions where employees can learn tips for managing anxiety, stress and social isolation.
  • Ensure access to mental health resources: Access to mental health resources include services and providers. Without a health care plan, options and tangible resources, employees do not often know where to start.
  • Continually improve response with evolving resources and discussions:The world is unpredictable, and while the pandemic might be the main worker stressor right now, there is likely to be more disruptions in the future. The best thing employers can do to ensure their workers’ health and safety if to establish the infrastructure, tools and conversations to respond effectively to any mental health impacts, whatever comes next.

Workforce mental health metrics are essential to safeguarding employees during the pandemic and beyond. Employers are responsible for protecting workers from the virus, but they are also responsible for helping workers keep their mental wellbeing in check.