Safeguarding employees’ mental health in the aftermath of the pandemic

After numerous false starts, employers are now welcoming their workforces back to traditional office spaces.

As a global community, we’ve been working toward the goal of “returning to normal” for more than two years, but now that we’re here, we can’t forget about the countless people for whom returning to the office may trigger serious anxiety and unease among other mental health concerns.

Mental Health America’s Mind the Workplace 2021 survey reports that workplace stress affects 9 in 10 employees’ mental health.

That same report found that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing concerns among employees, including an increased risk for workplace stress and burnout, and degradation of mental health and well-being.

While strides have been made in the last few years toward raising more awareness for mental health issues such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, American working culture has historically treated stress and anxiety as “non-issues” that should be worked through or endured as part of the job.

Going one step further, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that 34 percent of workers don’t feel safe reporting stress to their employers for fear that it will be interpreted as a lack of interest or unwillingness to do the task at hand.

We as industry leaders need to do better.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, during which we also recognize National Safety in Construction Week—which this year has a theme of connected, supported, and safe.

This awareness week and month presents an opportunity for companies of all sizes and specialties to share and learn best practices, new technologies and insights that will collectively improve the field and the well-being of its employees.

Mental health must be a part of that discussion now and on an ongoing basis.

Throughout the pandemic, essential workers in industries including construction, healthcare, retail—including grocers and delivery services—and life sciences remained in person, but are now dealing with a new dynamic as the world shifts once again.

While it may seem like an easy transition to make for those individuals who have gotten used to being in-person again, each new shift deserves attention as change can be difficult.  

By working collectively to address mental health issues such as workplace anxiety, depression and isolation, we will also create more desirable industries to attract and retain talented workers.

This is especially important in light of the Everyday Health finding that 52 percent of Generation Z in the U.S. has been diagnosed with a mental health issue.

When you consider the cost of treating those issues from a strictly business perspective—some $51 billion due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment—investing in resources such as educational programs and in-house support that can prevent and/or mitigate those issues before they arise becomes a no-brainer.  

As industry leaders we can’t ever lose sight of the fact that people are our greatest asset.

As humans, we are all wired with a longing to feel connected to our colleagues, clients and partners, supported by our employers and safe in our workplaces.

This is what every individual employee deserves, and the industry standard we are working to foster and maintain that will benefit everything we do and strive for as an industry.