Even before the pandemic crisis, anxiety, stress and depression were widespread, caused by long working hours, job insecurity in the private sector. Throughout the pandemic this worsened with social isolation and lockdowns.
And job insecurity is rampant, with 26 per cent of respondents to a Eurofound survey living in terror of losing their jobs.
Eurofound conducted three round of a large scale survey from April 2020 through March 2021 to investigate the impact of the pandemic on wellbeing, health and safety, work and telework, people’s work life balance and financial situation.
In fact, all across Europe, those who face stress at work, or who have lost jobs in the pandemic crisis or who live in fear of losing them have seen an increase in negative feelings like tension/anxiety, loneliness or depression. Worse still, these feelings are spreading; there is a generalised deterioration in mental health, the survey showed.
And, perhaps the worst aspect of this, is that employees are afraid to discuss these problems.
A high percentage of employees surveyed are afraid of the stigma that still comes with mental illnesses. By talking about mental health openly and backing up that talk with significant action, leaders can destigmatize mental illness and signal that people can and should access the support the company provides or seek treatment. Where help is sought—or offered—early, recovery is possible and negative effects can be minimised.
Employees must be able to approach their managers for assistance and support. Companies must make workplace mental health best practice a part of their organisational culture.
A Deloitte study conducted in the United Kingdom reported that most line managers had received some form of training on mental health at work. In the absence of such training and support, some employees did not approach anyone the last time they experienced poor mental health. So, ensure that the workplace environment supports employee well-being as a skill that can be learned, and train managers to understand signs of distress.
Make mental wellness a priority by demonstrating commitment from top, implementing campaigns to reduce the stigma preventing employees from seeking help and accessing mental healthcare services. With a year of closures and restrictions, the lockdown made it more difficult to access mental health services. According to Eurofound, 20 per cent of EU citizens experienced unmet needs in mental healthcare services in spring 2021.
Now more than ever, it’s incumbent on companies and society to drive awareness, to take action on mental health and it all starts from building a culture that encourages asking for help.