Employee Mental Health Continues to Be a Priority in 2022

With the onset of the pandemic and the abrupt changes and isolation it brought, there was an increased focus on employee well-being. Now, almost two years into pandemic protocols, mental health remains a priority for many workers and workplaces.

With many organizations trying to establish a new normal by bringing back in-person work and events, it could be easy to think that the mental health crisis that emerged with the pandemic is also waning. However, recent reports on wellness and the workplace suggest 2022 will continue to bring challenges for staff at associations and other workplaces.

“In 2022, expect mental health to command an even more prominent role in employee health and wellness programs as employers continue their pandemic-era shift to whole person health,” stated the Four Employee Health and Wellness Trends to Watch in 2022 report.

Thankfully, 2020 and 2021 saw an increased focus on mental health, with athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles both highlighting the need to take care of mental health ahead of professional obligations.

Staff Is Stressed

While the pandemic is not as new as it was in 2020, the rise of new variants and calls for boosters have left employees under prolonged stress and uncertainty. A survey released by the Conference Board [PDF] last month showed that employee mental health is suffering. According to the survey, 51 percent of workers said their mental health has declined since the onset of the pandemic. Women reported this at slightly higher rates (54 percent) than men (46 percent).

The Conference Board survey also showed that flexibility was a key salve in reducing employee stress. The top three flexibility options employees preferred were: flexible office hours and/or compressed work week (70 percent), flexible/hybrid work schedule (69 percent), and work from home/anywhere (63 percent). Other stress reducers included recognition and appreciation programs (37 percent), team-building activities (32 percent), and mental health employee resource groups (26 percent).

Employers Making Changes

Dr. Srini Pillay, cofounder and chief medical officer at Reulay, Inc., and former head of the Outpatient Anxiety Disorders Program at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital, noted in a press release that the Conference Board data suggests employees want managers to do more to relieve stress.

“The survey also reveals that almost half of workers believe that their managers adequately address mental health concerns—but one in five do not,” he said. “An overwhelming majority agree, however, that organizations should offer training to managers so that they can better address the sensitive mental health issues of workers.”

Despite the increased stress levels, there is some good news: Employers are making strides to do more for employees, according to the 2022 Employee Wellness Trends report.

“Employers have accepted the responsibility of providing employees with adequate mental health solutions and plan to invest more in 2022,” the report said. “For 2022, the benefits that will attract larger investments from the greatest proportion of employers include mental health (90 percent), telemedicine (80 percent), stress management and resilience (76 percent), mindfulness and meditation (71 percent), and COVID-19 vaccinations (57 percent).”

The Great Resignation, which has left many employers with empty job openings they are having trouble filling, has also helped spur organizational response.

“After years of sustained personal and workplace stressors, employees covet multifaceted and holistic approaches to well-being, and many are willing to quit their jobs in search of more wellness conducive roles,” stated the 2022 Employee Wellness Trends report. “As a result, employers have become increasingly aware that companies who fall short of these expectations will struggle to attract and retain talent.”

How does your association plan to address employee mental health in 2022? Share in the comments.

(Yurii Karvatskyi/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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