Keep on Keepin’ On (Or Not)
May 21, 2020
Mental Health & Productivity During COVID-19
“We act as if our bodies are machines that don’t need a break.”
-Lloyda Williamson, M.D., D.F.A.P.A., Chair and Professor, Psychiatry, Meharry Medical College
During a recent webinar hosted by the FINN Health team in partnership with WebMD, Dr. Williamson and other experts in the mental health space discussed a variety of concerns related to tackling mental health challenges during these unprecedented times. Among the topics discussed by the panel were the effects of changes in mental health on productivity.
A global study – conducted by SAP, Qualtrics, and Mind Share Partners – demonstrates that the pandemic is impacting mental health around the world. The stress of looking out for our physical health, along with the effects of heightened media attention and other factors, has contributed to increased anxiety among the general population, not to mention those who live with pre-existing mental health conditions.
The study identified the top five mental health challenges affecting non-essential workers this since the outbreak began:
- Difficulty concentrating (28.3%)
- Taking longer to do task (20.0%)
- Difficulty thinking, reasoning or deciding (14.7%)
- Putting off challenging work (12.4%)
- Difficulty juggling tasks or responsibilities (11.8%)
In typically fast-paced, high-touch industries, many struggle to fulfill work obligations, fighting harder against what they are feeling in order to get assignments done. This is compounded by the blurred lines between personal and work time as people have shifted to remote work styles. Forced to deal more directly with personal responsibilities, such as caring for the family and home, people often overwork to compensate, exacerbating their anxiety and stress.
Experts also note that considering this new level of employee anxiety, companies must take action to improve well-being and mitigate some of the negative effects of COVID-19:
- Care (and Act) Personally: Managers should check-in with direct reports and peers early and often.
- Be Transparent: Managers and key company leaders can help employees deal with mental health issues by communicating information articulately and making themselves available for employee questions and one-on-ones.
- Set Expectations: Stay honest and open with peers and employees to lay out what is expected of them while working from home.
- Provide Resources: Mental Health America (MHA), the leading mental health advocacy organization in the U.S., has compiled a cache of information and resources for the general public, including screeners for anxiety and depression
- Listening and Helping Employees: It is not a “one-and-done” conversation; employee needs will continue to evolve during this time of uncertainty, so it is crucial to repeat and reinforce these measures.
As we come to the end of Mental Health Month, it is crucial for companies to recognize the importance of assuming responsibility in supporting their employees. It’s equally important for individuals to remember that we are human beings, not machines, and have emotional needs. We must speak up to voice our needs and feelings and work together with our employers to ensure that both our work and personal needs are met.