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  • No question, stress is affecting us at work. A 2020 survey by Mental Health America found that over 80% of respondents felt emotionally drained from work and 71% said their workplace significantly affects their mental health. Another study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that over 50% of employees say stress and anxiety impacts their workplace quality and performance. The main culprits of all this workplace stress? Deadlines (55%), interpersonal work relationships (53%), staff management (50%), and dealing with unexpected issues and problems (49%) - not to mention the pandemic.

    These statistics seem unsustainable. Some employers recognize this issue and are in the process of creating company policies to address it. In this article, we look at the status of mental health in the workplace, and what both employers and workers can do to address the problem.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on mental health

    A 2020 CDC survey found that 1 in 4 of us reported feeling anxious more than half of the previous week, and 1 in 5 reported feelings of depression during the same time period - driven by COVID-19-related concerns such as illness, remote learning, travel restrictions, the switch to remote work, child care issues, and limits on gatherings with family or friends, and more.

    A recent McKinsey study found that 9 out of 10 employers say they know that COVID-19 is having an impact on their employees by creating unprecedented anxiety and depression, and 70% say they’re taking action - yet the same study found that almost half of workers anticipate that going back to the office will have somewhat or significantly negative impacts on their mental health. 

    Mental health issues in the workplace can impact both employees and employers

    Stress, anxiety and other mental health issues on the job can impact:

    • Job performance and productivity

    • Physical capability 

    • Cognitive functioning

    • Communication with coworkers

    • Engagement with one’s work

    Mental health issues in the workplace are also associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment. All of these issues are damaging to employers as well as workers.

    What can employers do to address the mental health crisis?

    If you’ve a manager, you’ve probably read about the success of interventions and programs such as the following list - which all start by acknowledging the importance of good mental health at all levels of your organization, and talking openly about the problem. In addition, employers can:

    • Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals

    • Make mental health self-assessment tools available to employees

    • Distribute materials (such as brochures or videos) about the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and ways to get help

    • Provide free or subsidized access to coaching, counseling, or stress management programs 

    What can workers do to address mental health issues in the workplace?

    It can benefit all of us to be on the lookout for warning signs that we might need to make changes at work or get professional help. Experts suggest that each of us can:

    • Watch out for warning signs. For example, if you start to notice you’re losing interest in your job or your productivity drops, or you start dreading work each day, or you feel so anxious that you have trouble thinking about everything that you’re supposed to do, it’s an indication that something is not right.

    • Consider setting boundaries. Would it help to have a more flexible work schedule, or  set limits as to when and how often you respond to work messages? Or do you need something bigger like a short-term disability leave (usually decided with a mental health professional)?

    • Get support. If you find you need help, seek out a trusted friend or family member, peer group, or qualified mental health professional - someone or somewhere you can feel seen, heard and validated. A mental health professional will work with you to determine what mental health condition you are experiencing and come up with a plan to address it.

    Note that it's illegal for an employer to discriminate against you if you have a mental health condition. And according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if you have a qualifying condition like major depression for example, you may have a right to a reasonable accommodation that would help you do your job. Talk to a qualified mental health professional about this first.

    If you identify with any of these signs of workplace-related stress or anxiety, consider consulting a behavioral health professional

    If you’re a client, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today. Our mental health professionals understand the link between the stresses of college life and mental health. If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits and learn how to apply here.


    Harvard Business Review
    Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
    McKinsey & Company
    McKinsey & Company

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