Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and the U.S. has that in spades. The astonishing events in Washington D.C. surrounding the presidential election has our heads spinning. We are a nation in anguish with yet another traumatizing blow to our sense of security and state of mental health both corporately and individually. This coming fast on the heals of a tumultuous year, is wreaking havoc on mental health in workforces across the global landscape.
The past year has delivered a staggering increase in depression, anxiety, PTSD and burnout which, not surprisingly, parallel the increases in domestic violence, suicide and alcohol & drug use. We are a nation and a people in peril with the most urgent matter being the state of our mental health as a result of the compounded trauma.
So what can leaders do to help themselves and their teams immediately? In a recent article from the Harvard Business Review, it discusses ways to support employee mental health. Though the topic is not a new one - it is a much-needed one - and now! Whether large or small, organizations are grappling with how best to keep their employees mentally and emotionally healthy, engaged, productive in the midst of unrest. That is a tall order given the fact that so many companies are remaining remote for 3-12 more months. What is the solution when most of our daily interactions and in-person events have now pivoted to remote as well?
No doubt by now HR and Benefits departments have figured out some solutions to navigate these emerging circumstances. We have already seen a major Increase in access to mental health counseling through telemedicine and apps. The use of these resources are skyrocketing as the demand escalates. The Global Wellness Summit met in November for a hybrid event, live and virtual audiences. Their findings - the mental health economy is an anticipated $121 billion dollars! From this they say that employers will keep that economy humming by increasing the spend on mental health technology for their people over the coming years. They also noted the leading Telehealth company, Amwell was valued at $4 billion just this past September and surged to a $7 billion dollar valuation in November!
In short, the demand for access to virtual mental health consultations and applications providing stress relief are skyrocketing and will continue to grow. For companies of all size there is now a crucial need to act quickly by communicating more frequently, show vulnerability as a leader and ask how they are doing and what they need. And let's not miss this point; As a leader, you must take care of your own well-being first. We cannot serve from an empty well (though many have done so for many years). Leaders must model the healthy behavior; Not only to be well themselves and equipped to mitigate burnout, but to create a culture that truly encourages mental health and well-being and eliminates the stigma of mental illness by normalizing discussions and behaviors that foster genuine wellness.
Human Resources and Employee Benefits are becoming increasingly urgent and complex. They have been digging deeper and finding creative ways to care for their employees and the need for more innovative and impactful solutions to engage team members (whether virtual or in person) with meaningful discussions and possibly event offerings surrounding stress management, mental health, and burnout has never been more critical.
The competitive landscape of attracting and retaining employees is enhanced by how well a company navigates the new standard of wellness and well-being offerings.
My sense is that a stocked refrigerator and dry cleaning on-site may not be driving factors for a candidate. Instead, I believe mental wellness benefits will be added to the top considerations when an employee chooses a company; ranking right up there with salary, insurance, and 401k. These are some of the challenges companies are facing as we speak; how to rapidly put in place the most needed benefits in our new world of employees working while recovering from trauma and other attacks on their well-being.
If you are an entrepreneur just starting out, (and the numbers below indicate that you may be) these are critically important considerations for you to be aware of surrounding the human resources and benefits you put in place for your employees. Take the time to build the company and culture that will serve your employees and your customers well rather than try to fix it later. The stakes are too high and the competition for quality employees is too fierce to neglect such important components of your business model.
According to the quarterly report from the U.S. Census Bureau new business applications in the U.S. rose 74% in Q3 over Q2 of 2020 to 1,566,373. Of those applications 79% are labeled High Propensity, meaning they are likely to employ personnel. This dramatic increase in business applications may be a result of the pandemic but is also an ode to how this country was built and why so many people still flock here to get a taste of the American dream. With all of the negative economic impact we have experienced in 2020, the climbing rate of new businesses is a bright spot for the nation and its economy.
As an eternal optimist, I have also found this emphasis on well-being to be an encouraging
time of growth. With everyone scrambling to find resources and programs to manage stress and anxiety, now more than ever we are focusing on the thing that matters most, caring for the greatest assets of our business - the people. This, over time, can lead to a much healthier workforce and nation.
Please reach out to explore partnering and tackling this mountain together.
Linda Mullins can be reached at:
Inspired Leadership Group