April is Stress Awareness Month—dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of the stress epidemic and finding healthy ways to cope with stress. This year is a particularly important time as we’ve passed the one-year anniversary of living with the pandemic. The American workforce is as stressed and burnt out than ever—whether they’re essential workers on the front line or working remotely with little-to-no work/life balance.
According to a recent study, 55% of the respondents reported that Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health. Nearly half (48%) do not, or only sometimes, feel supported in their professional and personal lives, and more than half (54%) reported feeling the need to speak with someone due to stress. Given the stigmas and barriers to access that still exist around seeking help, it’s vital employers are providing employees with mental health resources to utilize during times of stress.
Kelli Waters Egger, LCSW, CAADC, director of care at Listeners On Call, addressed the existing stigmas surrounding mental wellness and workforce culture and how employers can implement effective mental health benefits based on some of the findings from this new study:
Nearly half of respondents (48%) do not, or only sometimes, feel supported in their professional and personal lives. More than half (54%) reported feeling the need to speak with someone due to stress.
It is common at some point in a person’s life to not feel supported by friends, family or in a professional setting. Having a lack of support can be deflating and overwhelming. It’s important to first really try to understand the type of support you are looking for – is it moral support, emotional support, intellectual support, physical support or simply looking for resources. If you need support it’s important to speak up, advocate for yourself and seek it out. Internalizing how you are feeling can manifest into a physical and/or emotional problem; for example, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, stress and/or depression. Sometimes we don’t have a trusted person in our circle that we can talk to, or we don’t want to burden those that we love. This is where having access to a non-judgmental, peer listener comes in. Talking with them creates a space where you can feel supported by someone who has experienced a similar feeling or situation.
On the impact of stress and burnout on the workforce and how stigmas associated with mental health and seeking support still hinder many Americans from reaching out for help.
Although mental health is something that is coming more into the forefront, it sadly is still stigmatized. Seeking support early on in times of stress and burnout greatly reduces the impact of these challenges, especially considering the root of burnout is often stress.
When working with my clients, it is essential that we get to the root of their stress in order for them to properly address and resolve these negative feelings. The longer you wait to address the stress, the more challenging this can become. Unfortunately, it is common for people to feel a sense of shame surrounding reaching out for help and the fear that others in the workplace will find out. I see time and time again clients coming to see me who are in a full-blown crisis. They wait until things are catastrophic before they seek help, instead of when they notice the first signs of an issue.
I recommend to my clients that they seek out listening services, such as Listeners On Call, at the first signs of stress. Having someone available to listen in the heat-of-the-moment can oftentimes defuse the situation completely, instead of letting the overwhelming feeling of frustration grow. It’s important to note that listening services are anonymous and include the added benefit of being available on-demand.
How providing employees with resources that give them a place to feel heard and understood can decrease turnover rates and foster healthier and happier employees
Employee retention has a definite correlation to how well supported they feel in the workplace. Even small investments which help an employee feel valued and respected can make a huge difference in the likelihood they will choose to stay with a company. It continues to surprise me how these obvious support channels are overlooked, with so much attention given to physical well-being and much less to the mental well-being of employees. Progressive companies have started to understand the importance of this investment at the same time younger employees are growing to expect these types of benefits.
Ways ancillary mental wellness benefits are smart investments that can improve employee engagement and productivity, as well as positively impact the bottom line
Reports show that every dollar invested in employee well-being returns three to four dollars in benefit to the company. In simple terms, happier employees are more productive and deliver better results. This has been shown for sales teams and creative teams alike—each of which correlate success with how their team members feel at work. One of the best returns an employer can make is on investments in their team’s mindset. Incremental improvements through programs like on-demand consumer listening services turn small improvements to employee benefits packages into big impacts on employee happiness and productivity that can spread throughout a team or organization.