Stress from the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on employees. In this Healthline article, Mindpath Health’s Taish Malone, LPC, explains why companies need to provide supportive environments.

Over 80% Of U.S. Workers Seek Employers Who Care About Their Mental Health_Taish Malone, PhD_mindpath health

New findings from the American Psychological Association (APA) suggest the mindset of the American workforce may be shifting. Stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on employee well-being, with many actively seeking new work.

Insights reveal that 81% of workers in the United States are seeking employment opportunities at companies that actively support employee mental health. The survey shows that many challenges arise within the workplace itself, particularly in hostile work environments.

“A typical adult spends one-third of their life working — it’s not possible for employees to leave issues at the door when they arrive at work,” says Dennis P. Stolle, JD, PhD, senior director of the APA’s Office of Applied Psychology.

What the APA survey shows

According to the survey, 18% described their workplace as somewhat or very toxic. Stolle noted the percentage was significantly higher among those who do manual labor, 22%, compared to those who do office work, 15%. The findings also indicate that one-third of respondents had experienced physical violence, verbal abuse, or harassment at work in the past year.

In addition, companies with a tendency to track employee activity were highlighted in the survey as an emerging factor. Respondents who were monitored at work were twice as likely to report their work environment negatively impacted their mental well-being.

“One of the more surprising results was that 53% of the respondents reported that their employer monitors them using computers, software, cameras, barcode scanners, or other technology,” Stolle said. “The remaining 47% includes those who do not know whether they are being monitored.”

What employees want from an employer

Some employers have acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on worker well-being and started offering improved mental health support to their staff. According to the APA survey, one-third of workers said their company’s mental health initiatives have improved since the pandemic began.

“71% of our survey respondents said they believe their employer is more concerned about employees’ mental health now than they were in the past,” Stolle said.

In addition to mental health support, the survey indicates employees would also like to see:

  • more flexible work hours (41%)
  • a culture that respects paid time off (34%)
  • the ability to work remotely (33%)
  • a 4-day work week (31%)
  • A vast majority (95%) of respondents view initiatives such as these effective for improving mental health.

Supporting employee mental health is key

Stress — one of the most common mental health concerns — may significantly affect well-being.

“Mental health should be a priority in general to achieve overall well-being,” said Taish Malone, LPC, PhD, licensed professional counselor with Mindpath Health. “It dictates how we experience a large part of our lives.”

Ways to support employee well-being

Mental health supports and flexible work hours may offer some improvements to workplace culture. Here are some other strategies employers can implement to prioritize employee well-being:

  • Prioritize transparency and open dialogues. Stolle noted that 46% expressed concern about what would happen if they told their employer about a mental health condition. They worried whether it would have a negative impact on their standing in the workplace due to stigma.
  • Host regular check-ins about workloads. Excessive workloads inevitably contribute to stress. “In our fast-paced, supply and demand, quantity-over-quality culture, it’s common for employees to feel pressured and be defensive of their work stability by stretching themselves more than they should,” Malone said. To help mitigate workload-related stress, employers and managers could regularly check in with employees and ask how they can help support them.
  • Improve diversity from the top down. The APA survey indicates that respondents who live with a disability, are Black, or identify as LGBTQIA+ reported higher rates of discrimination in the workplace. “Those in positions of authority can help create and encourage a culture of healthy collaboration, which embraces and respects differences,” Malone said.

Read the full Healthline article with sources.

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