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How to support employees’ mental health in stressful times

What every business leader should know to provide for their staff’s well-being

How to support employees’ mental health in stressful times

The pandemic. Social unrest. Climate disasters. A fierce presidential election. The turmoil of 2020 has taken a measurable toll on our collective mental health. Dr. Steven E. Pratt, senior medical director for Magellan Health, says the managed healthcare company, which provides services to many Principal® clients, has witnessed that toll on workers nationwide. Magellan experienced a 42% increase in members seeking phone or videoconference coaching through its employee assistance program (EAP) in 2020 compared to the previous year1. The most noticeable increase has been among people struggling to stay motivated and manage stress during the pandemic.

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“The only year in my lifetime that comes anywhere close to this is 1968,” Pratt says, referring to the landmark year that saw the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy; widespread civil rights protests; and even a flu pandemic. “2020 has been a year unlike any other in the memory of almost everyone.”

Business leaders are intimately aware of the effects of last year: navigating lockdowns, disruption to supply chains, and employee well-being. Earlier this year, more than half of employers surveyed already were providing special emotional support to their stressed workforce because of COVID-19. And mental health/well-being was the most popular category of employee benefits to add or increase among employers surveyed in our Principal Financial Well-Being Indexsm this past fall. Mental health benefits are good for employee morale and can affect a business’s bottom line. A 2018 Tufts Medical Center study showed that people suffering both mental and physical disorders can double or triple healthcare costs. “For many, if not most, employers, the single most expensive category of health problems in their companies isn’t heart disease, cancer, or musculoskeletal illness, but mental disorders,” the study concludes.

And that was before the pandemic.

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So, take a moment to reflect: As a business leader, how do I support employees when signs of depression and the need for mental health resources seem to be spiking?

We’re here to help you answer that question—and maintain business productivity—with a series of short articles focusing on four main categories of employee stressors, plus a fifth article explaining employee assistance programs (EAPs).

1. External stress, such as COVID-19

The spread of the pandemic and vaccine development may be out of your control, but you can take proactive steps to reassure employees about external factors (such as a local spike in infections, political demonstrations, etc.) that may intrude on the workplace.

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2. Work-related stress

Widespread remote work has introduced conveniences and complications, while collaboration and teambuilding also have been challenged in this unconventional period. Get ideas on mental-health support for specific types of workers, as well as the role physical exercise plays in employee mental health.

3. Personal and family stress

Balancing the professional and personal has gotten trickier for millions of American workers—for instance, juggling home schooling or caregiving with their careers. Explore everything from telehealth to “reflective listening.”

4. Financial stress

In volatile times, good financial education and reassurance about long-term retirement savings strategies, portfolios, and other aspects of personal budgeting can help remove money as extra worry that only compounds stress.

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5. Focus on EAPs (employee assistance programs)

Even businesses with an EAP may not realize all the well-being resources they can access through its services. See if you’re maximizing your program.

Supporting your employees’ mental health will become only more important to your business based on demographic trends.

recent CDC study showed young adults, 18 to 24, to be the most vulnerable to mental-health issues. That’s consistent with the generational difference in sentiment: Twice as many millennials as baby boomers believe it’s important for their workplace to support mental health, with millennials also far likelier to know their company’s procedure for enlisting help.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

1 Data from Magellan, October 2020.

Magellan Health is not an affiliate of any company of the Principal Financial Group®

The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal® is not rendering legal, accounting, investment advice or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel or other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment or accounting obligations and requirements.

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Insurance products and plan administrative services provided through Principal Life Insurance Co. a member of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, Iowa 50392.

1568353-032021

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