What is resiliency? It’s the ability to adapt and even thrive in times of uncertainty.
Resilient employees embrace new challenges, solve problems and build teams, all while keeping a solid goal in mind, according to MetLIfe’s 18th Annual U.S. Employee Benefits Trend Study 2020 entitled Mental Health: A Path to a Resilient Workforce and Business Recovery, which includes feedback from 1,000 workplace decision-makers and 2,000 full-time employees over the age of 21.
During the pandemic, employers may have learned a new appreciation for resiliency. That’s because they collectively witnessed hundreds of thousands of workers continue to meet and exceed expectations in all types of jobs, across all levels, during a devastating time. But even though we seem to be approaching the end of the pandemic, the stresses workers experienced are likely to have a long-lasting impact on our workforce and the way we will work in the future.
It’s a reminder to HR professionals just how prized the quality of resiliency should be and how important it is to build and nurture workplace resilience. The bottom line: More resilient employees may have a positive impact on your business, especially for firms that are recovering from COVID-19’s negative economic impacts.
Here’s what HR professionals can do to help employees become more resilient.
Acknowledge Pandemic Stress
COVID-19 added dramatic new stressors for employees. These included illness and the fear of illness, isolation, economic uncertainty, working remotely, and homeschooling children. As employees shift back to the workplace or make the decision to stay remote, many may be suffering from COVID-related and post-COVID stress. Forty-one percent of workers say they feel stressed, burnt out, or depressed at work regularly, according to the MetLife survey. And as we all continue to adjust to a post-COVID world and workplace, there are likely to be more challenges and stresses on an ongoing basis.
Acknowledging this stress and the signs of burnout and depression that may also be evident in your workforce is the first step toward building a resilient culture for the future. An open culture in which employees feel comfortable voicing their challenges and asking for help with no fear of stigma builds trust and loyalty among your workforce. Taking these initial steps sets the stage for fostering well-being and accelerating resilience.
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Lay the Foundations for Resilience in Your Workforce
Do you have the infrastructure in place to support your workers and help them achieve resiliency? To answer that question, you may need to determine if your mental health benefits are comprehensive, accessible, and inclusive. A strong connection between mental health and resiliency is supported by the findings that 80% of employees who rate their mental health as good are productive and 79% are engaged with their work. By way of contrast, those figures are 60% and 47%, respectively, for employees who do not rate their mental health as good, according to the MetLife survey.
In the wake of the pandemic you may find that you need to initiate additional educational efforts surrounding mental health awareness in general and what your company offers specifically. It also means creating a culture that eliminates any stigma or barriers to using those benefits, including addressing concerns about privacy, trust, and cost.
Along those lines, make sure your mental health benefits are easy to use. If an employee has to go through hoops to access help for stress, substance use disorders, and other issues, they may become discouraged and miss the support they need.
Review Telehealth Behavioral Services
The dramatic increase in use of telehealth for mental health services, including counseling, psychotherapy, and treatment for addiction during the pandemic, has helped make these services more accessible. It may also have increased employees’ willingness to take advantage of mental health benefits.
From January 2019 to February of 2021,the use of telehealth for behavioral health services rose 6,500%, as more employers offered behavioral telehealth services and more people sought a virtual alternative to in-person counseling, according to data analyzed by LexisNexis Risk Solution Health Care for the 2021 COVID-19 Mental Health Impact Report.
You’ll want to review your telehealth services to make sure behavioral health is included and accessible to your employees. With reentry from the pandemic and the stress that can cause, it’s likely that demand for these services, both in-person and virtual, will continue. Make sure employees know about telehealth services and their increasing popularity. Assure them that telehealth offers the same privacy and a similar quality of care but may be more convenient and/or accessible than in-person care.
Review Your Company’s Employee Assistance Program
Another step: Take a close look at your employee assistance program (EAP).These employer-sponsored programs help workers manage a range of issues for themselves or other members of their household including substance abuse and other mental health issues. Sixty-three percent of employees with access to EAPs are likely to be resilient compared to 46% of employees who do not have access to EAPs, according to the MetLife survey.
But, as the report points out, EAPs are only effective if employees use them. You may want to consider making more efforts to increase awareness of your EAP, including guidance on when and how employees should use it. Ask yourself whether, in the wake of the pandemic, there are any additional services you may need to add to your EAP.
Integrate Financial Wellness into Your Resiliency Strategy
Feeling financially stable may add to resiliency. According to the MetLife survey, employees with good financial health are twice as likely to report having good mental health.
But financial stress can be a huge driver of mental health stress, and the pandemic has added to the strain. Before COVID-19, 52% of employees reported feeling major financial stress. Since COVID-19, that number has jumped to 81%.
Boosting and promoting your financial wellness programs, particularly financial planning, debt counseling services, and emergency savings programs can help bring financial stability to employees and build their resiliency for the next period of uncertainty.
While 2020 was one of the most turbulent examples, it’s important to remember that your employees wrestle with stressful situations every day. Providing holistic support and benefits that can help employees cope with uncertainty can help you build a resilient, productive and stable workforce. A resilient workforce can, in turn, support your business through times of adversity. For more information on the benefits and programs that can help you build a resilient workforce, see SoFi at Work.
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