Depression, which has been recognized as a prevalent condition, has become more pervasive due to the pandemic. A Gartner, Inc. survey of more than 5,000 employees conducted in the fourth quarter of 2020 found that more than one-quarter of the workforce (29%) described itself as depressed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employers are responding and offer programs that employees are utilizing. According to the survey, 49% of employees who reported their organization offers a mental well-being program participated in it in 2020.
“The need for well-being support has skyrocketed since the pandemic struck, giving organizations a new mandate to offer more and better programs,” said Carolina Valencia, vice president in the Gartner HR practice in a statement. “Organizations, more than ever, must respond to all facets of the individual, from the physical to the emotional, and address some of the new stressors that have emerged over the past year.”
When evaluating their organization’s well-being initiatives, Garners offers these points for consideration:
Commit to Help Employees Cope with Stress Factors, Even Post-Pandemic
In response to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, most organizations took emergency measures to support their staff. Gartner's research found 87% of businesses provided flexible work hours to employees acting as caregivers for family members. Additionally, 26% gave employees paid time off (PTO) for childcare and 21% gave PTO for eldercare.
Additionally, a Gartner survey of 50 HR leaders revealed 64% of companies provided a new well-being offering to support their staff, while 34% of companies expanded access to their existing offerings.
Yet, only one-quarter of organizations report that they plan to maintain the programs introduced during the pandemic for the foreseeable future. Leaders should consider sustaining programs beyond the pandemic due to the financial difficulties and lingering stress that will persist even after the outbreak subsides.
Personalize Support to Meet Diverse Employee Needs
To address the varying needs of employees, organizations must ensure there is alignment between the support they offer and the demand from employees. However, according to Gartner research, less than half of employees (46%) feel that their organization’s well-being programs are personalized. To mitigate this, organizations can take specific steps to achieve alignment between support and demand – such as offering more choices. Currently, only 19% of employees working for organizations with mental well-being programs report having access to five or more offerings.
In addition, leaders should give employees tools to navigate challenging moments on their own at the right moment. One tactic successful organizations are utilizing is encouraging employees to self-assess their well-being. Doing so facilitates employees to easily benchmark themselves, map out a development plan to enhance their well-being and hold themselves accountable for their wellness. More importantly, it encourages employees to seek out offerings the organization already provides.
Establish Programs, Processes and Guidance to Enable Discussions
While the COVID-19 pandemic was an anomaly, disruptions are increasingly common. Organizations must be equipped to support the well-being of employees.
Leaders need to establish programs, processes and guidance in advance of whatever unexpected event comes next. These efforts should empower–but not force–employees to discuss subjects they may otherwise be nervous to bring up, including mental health challenges, resolving tension between employees and emotional health issues.
Gartner's research reveals only about half of employees (49%) agree their manager understands their problems and needs. To address this, leaders can provide easy-to-understand information that defines the level of involvement managers are expected to have when supporting their employees with mental and emotional health issues.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear to employers and employees that work and life cannot be treated as two separate constructs,” Valencia said. “If employers help support employees with all aspects of their health during turbulent times more effectively, not only do they have better lives, but they perform at a higher level. In fact, organizations that provide holistic well-being support can boost employee discretionary effort by 21%, twice as much as companies that provide only traditional (physical and financial) programs.”