A significant number of in-office employees (63%) say they experience COVID-19 related stress according to Paychex. The survey highlights the impact the pandemic has on the mental health of the American workforce.
Remote workers however feel less stressed about COVID with only 35% affected by stress. According to the survey having all onsite employees working remotely full time helped decrease the stress levels among a quarter of those surveyed.
COVID Employee Stress
Of the more than 1,000 surveyed 51%, say their mental health had worsened during the COVID-19 outbreak. More than half of these (56%) are working on site. Furthermore, motivation in the workplace has also seen a decline. Here, more remote workers (51%) say they struggle to get motivated to work compared to those working on-site (45%).
Team morale has also been affected by both onsite workers (47%) and remote workers (43%) being affected. Strangely enough, work-life balance was not a major factor with only 30% admitting to experiencing more stress in the post COVID era. In this regard, those working onsite (33%) experienced slightly more stress than those who work remotely (28%).
The impact of stress on productivity among employees was almost the same. With 35% of onsite employees and 32% of remote workers admitting to a reduction in their productivity levels.
The Cost of Mental Health
Mental health is important for driving quality of life. Disorders, such as depression can negatively affect the immune system, sleep patterns and interpersonal relationships.
The impact of poor mental health also takes a financial toll. In fact, depression among employees cost businesses around $44 billion in lost productivity per year. As high as 6.7% of all U.S. adults experience at least one depressive episode annually.
Before COVID-19, an estimated 1 in 6 people experienced a common mental health issue like anxiety or depression in any given week. This figure is likely to get higher in the wake of the pandemic. Stress levels are expected to increase because of prolonged social distancing, massive loss of life, and economic uncertainty.
To Tell or Not to Tell
Mental health experts advise those struggling with mental health issues should seek help from a licensed medical professional. Though this might be a little more difficult in the age of social distancing, they should also look to confide in someone. Only 27% are either regularly seeing a therapist or attend counseling sessions. Surprisingly more than half (55%) experiencing stress have not said anything to anyone because they feel uncomfortable in raising the subject.
Some 40% of employees say their employer does not provide adequate policies or procedures to address health and well-being during COVID-19. On-site employees were more likely to report inadequate mental health policies at work (43%), compared to remote workers (38%). Feeling that raising the subject was a deeply personal issue (59%) was the top reason presented. This is followed by not expecting the employer to help in alleviating the stress (33%). Others included the possibility of being either furloughed or fired (30%) or negatively affecting their career prospects (29%).
Interestingly 18% feared raising the issue thinking their supervisors were too busy (18%). Moreover, others thought it would create judgement (10%) towards them in the workspace. Only 26% of managers and supervisors have actually checked on their employee’s mental health during the pandemic.
Those that have opened up to feeling stress did so to colleagues (35%) and supervisors (21%). While a few have confided to subordinates (6%) or HR (5%). Those that had opened up about feeling stressed felt more comfortable talking about their issues with their managers over the phones. Conversely, they felt the least comfortable opening up online chatting services such as Slack or Google chat.
Stress Over a Possible Second Wave of COVID-19
Concerns over a second wave of COVID-19 is also an issue according to those surveyed. In fact, around 73% of respondents say they are ‘deeply troubled’ by the prospect of a second wave.
Those fearing losing their jobs in the event of a second wave is almost the same among all age groups. Millennials have a slightly higher concern (23%) compared to Generation X (22%) and Baby boomers (19%).
The good news, however, is that they are preparing for it. Among these, include looking for a fallback job in the event of getting cut or furloughed (35%). Some 36% of employees and 33%of managers are actively looking for backup jobs just in case their current employment does not pan out. A further 30% are learning new skills to increase their chances of remaining employed. This applies to 31% of employees and 27% of managers who are developing additional job skills. Only 2% of both employees and managers are saving money in the event that they lose their current employment.
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I feel like everyone has additional stress right now due to COVID. Some people have adjusted so well they don’t recognize it anymore I guess. Good for them, but I’m still feeling the stress in one way or another.
When employees have access to a robust EAP, they should be guided to it. They might forget if there hasn’t been any recent promotion or they might assume that they would have to meet face-to-face. Most EAPs are delivering counseling via video, phone, or text during COVID. EAPs use licensed counselors who can do assessment for depression and suicide risk. For managers who don’t know how to make a referral, call the EAP yourself to discuss the situation.