Helping employees cope with work-related anxiety

Mental health has been battered in these unprecedented times of uncertainty and unpredictability. As the pandemic continued to cripple industries and up-end work routines, it also sparked serious mental health issues in a stressed-out and isolated workforce.

In fact, data in Monster’s new Future of Work 2021 Outlook showed that globally, feelings of job-related anxiety is overwhelming employees, followed by headaches, depression and loneliness.

Our data revealed that 31% of U.S. respondents have experienced anxiety because of their job, and 15% report work-related depression. The additional work screen time is leading to headaches for 13%.

Work-related anxiety high among women

Here in the U.S., female respondents experienced higher rates of work-related mental health issues, with 36% of women reporting anxiety versus 26% of men.

A deeper dive into the data highlighted the multiple roles women are shouldering during the pandemic. Many hold frontline or customer-facing roles, along with the added responsibilities of running the household, possibly homeschooling children, and caring more about their performance or reputation than men.

Remote work has prompted a storm of anxiety-inducing challenges for female employees—work life boundaries, job and financial security, and feelings of being in control at work and home have been wiped out.

Experiencing extreme disruption and distress

According to Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health APA Foundation, anxiety is running high across the country, fueled by the trifecta of a global pandemic, an economic downturn, and social unrest.

With workers experiencing unprecedented fear, uncertainty and extreme disruption and distress, increased support and caring leadership are essential—”employees are organizations’ greatest asset,” said Gruttadaro.

“It makes good business sense to be concerned about employee mental health, not just during this historically difficult time, but all the time,” she said. “It is not just the right thing to do but it also impacts the bottom line in productivity, performance, overall healthcare costs, disability rates, retention, and more.”

If employers want business continuity, they need a healthy workforce. The risk of ignoring employee stress and anxiety has short-term and long-term implications, according to Cathleen Swody, an organizational psychologist and founding partner of executive coaching firm Thrive Leadership.

“In the short-term, employers will lose out on the attention and creativity of employees. Longer-term, employers who don’t show genuine care and support for their employees will see increased disengagement and regrettable turnover,” Swody said.

Make mental health highly visible

Stress that it’s okay to talk about distress. Although this is slowly changing, mental health is often the taboo topic. “Leadership sets the culture of organizations. So have your leaders talk openly about the distress people are experiencing, rising rates of anxiety and depression symptoms and the importance of getting help early,” Gruttadaro suggested.

Ensure open lines of communication

Use pulse surveys, town hall meetings, 1:1 supervisor meetings, employee resource groups and other vehicles to create feedback loops to better understand how employees are feeling, Gruttadaro said. “Reinforce with your people managers the need to be good listeners and to show empathy and compassion.”

Leadership goes a long way in downsizing anxiety. According to Swody, every communication and every interaction is an opportunity to shift the culture to support employees and their health. “An employer could have the most comprehensive resources ever, but employees will not use them if there is a stigma.”

Double down on access to services and supports

Assess what is available to employees and look at your EAP, health benefit (aggregated, not individually identifiable) and other data to see if people are reaching out for help, Gruttadaro advised. In your employee surveys, ask people if they can connect with care and if not, work with your external vendors to address it. Consider adding digital options, like care navigation, coaching, and meditation apps.

Extend help to working families

Some employers are helping working families by offering flexibility in terms of modified workloads and child care, including Monster. The “One Monster, One Family” program includes new initiatives such as two paid self-care days for all employees to be used before March 2021; one additional paid day per year for family time; a premium membership to  (so employees can find a nanny, a sitter, an elderly care nurse, or a tutor); and a laptop lending program for school kids.

Increase manager training

Navigating a team remotely during a crisis can be extremely challenging, and few have the training. According to Gruttadaro, many organizations are reaching out to APA Foundation for assistance, with a particular interest in people manager training so that managers will notice warning signs of potential mental health concerns, will be more comfortable to talk with someone they are concerned about and to act by connecting that person with services and supports.

The foundation created employer guides on COVID-19 and mental health, and they have received 225,000 views—typically their resources get about 16k views, Gruttadaro reported. Requests to speak at virtual meetings and to provide training are up more than 150%.

Added Swody: “The most important request I hear is for managers to demonstrate empathy and understanding to employees. Your employees are not robots. Ask them how you are doing and listen.”

 Be grateful for what’s going right

With the many mixed messages on the pandemic and recovery that people are bombarded with daily, increasing the cadence of communication with employees can help reduce uncertainty. Be realistic about the challenges and appreciate the good stuff in the business, for example creative solutions, teamwork, and retained customers, Swody said.

Employers need to go above and beyond

With the vaccine being rolled out and hard-hit industries gaining footing, 2021 trends looks promising but it’ll take months before the massive cloud of overwhelming anxiety and economic uncertainty lifts. In the meantime, a genuinely caring culture will go a long way in helping workers feel supported, safe, and valued in every way, now and in the future. 

 If you are looking for more ways to help your team get through the challenges ahead, and how to make sure your employee support is reflected in your employer branding and recruitment marketing, get help with expert advice and the latest hiring trends from  Monster Hiring Solutions.