Employee Mental Health Becoming Important Employee Benefit

Employee mental health is now being addressed as an employee benefit and as a risk to some employers.  American workers are now looked at as a stressed-out cohort.  For many American workers their main source of stress is their job!

That’s according to a new survey from employee experience software provider Qualtrics, as cited in HRDive.  More than half of full-time U.S. workers surveyed said their job was the primary reason for their mental health challenges, according to the survey.  Employers should take notice of this trend and implement measures to address and improve employees’ mental health.

Flexibility is important to employees.  Approximately 87% of those surveyed said they wanted to be in control of their schedules, and 36% said having the flexibility to work wherever and whenever they wanted would positively impact their mental health.  The issue is, workers don’t universally agree on the definition of flexibility:  41% of respondents said they would prioritize the ability to choose the hours they work, while 25% would prioritize the days they work and 14% said they would prioritize their work location.  Clearly, this disparity in how flexibility is defined presents a unique challenge for employers.

Another concern is a lack of separation between work and personal lives; 69% of the workers Qualtrics surveyed said this is an issue.  Nonetheless, workers may be hesitant to take advantage of flexibility options, even if their employer offered them.  More than half of respondents said they worried their ability to get a promotion or pay increase would suffer if they did so.

Interestingly, an increasing number of employers have embraced flexible work options since mid-2020.  It is perceived as a way to help address workers’ pandemic-related employee mental health issues.  According to a 2020 Flexjobs survey, 48% of employees with access to flexible work options said their work-life balance was positive.  This, compared to 36% of those without flexible options.  More than half of those with such options said they believed they had the emotional support they needed to manage and shift work stress.  This is a positive for addressing employee mental health issues.

Employers have taken notice.  According to an August 2020 Mercer survey, 83% of U.S. employers said their companies were considering implementing flexible work arrangements more than they had before the pandemic.  Employees with caregiving responsibilities were given priority amid school and care center closures.

However, remote work arrangements aren’t a panacea, other research has found.  Many workers felt lonely and isolated during the pandemic, including a loss of connection to their teams.  Qualtrics found that 20% of remote workers started their days earlier, 18% took fewer sick days and 17% said they worked more hours.  On the other hand, the prospect of returning to the office also stresses employees out.

While flexible work arrangements can, in some instances, help address employee mental health, it is not the only (or best) solution.  Employers should explore additional options to foster a sense of employee wellbeing.  This can include virtual gatherings, or when feasible, in-person interactions.  Managers should schedule regular check-ins with reports, not only for work-related issues, but to make sure they feel adequately supported and engaged.  Employers could also consider funding employee mental health benefits.  If the budget allows, this can include increasing the number of visits permitted by employee assistance programs.  Employee mental health is a key issue that employers must proactively address to foster a happy, healthy, productive workforce.


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