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Companies are pulling back on much needed mental health benefits


A young woman sits on a couch with her therapist.

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A survey of workers and CEOs across the globe looking at workplace issues driving stress and burnout concluded that at a time when employees need mental health options the most, companies are pulling back and taking the focus off these programs.

While stress from Covid-19 worries has started to abate, employees are increasingly feeling anxious from burnout and the disconnect that seems to exist between them and the leadership at their organizations.

Among the most notable findings:

  • 94% of CEOs think they do enough to support workplace mental health, while 67% of employees feel the same way.
  • 71% of workers say their company increased the focus on mental health in the wake of Covid-19, but just 25% say they have kept up that focus in the last year.
  • 83% of CEOs and 70% of employees report missing at least one day of work due to stress, burnout, and mental health challenges.

The survey, done by Headspace Health, a digital mental health platform perhaps best known for its meditation app, is based on data from 500 chief executives and 5,400 full-time employees in the U.S., Australia, Germany, and U.K.

Employees say work harms their mental health

With May being National Mental Health Awareness month, the spotlight is being shone on how the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the need for mental health resources for employees.

A Lancet study estimates that the pandemic has led to 53 million additional cases of major depressive disorders and 76 million additional cases of anxiety disorders globally in 2020. The Headspace report reveals that 30% of employees feel work harms their mental health.

A big driver of that finding is the perception among employees that their companies are pulling back on mental health support at a time when workers need it the most.

“As pandemic restrictions ease, there are signs that a ‘business as usual’ mindset is creeping back into the world,” says Desiree Pascual, chief people officer for Headspace Health. “And at a time when even the perception of employer indifference to mental health is helping to fuel the great resignation, scaling back on support is a risky strategy for employers.”

The survey further shows that while employees expect companies to make mental health offerings easy to access, just 66% of workers feel that they are.

Mattel senior director of global benefits Keith Saucier said the toy giant started working with Headspace Health right before the pandemic. An annual survey of employees showed that while the company was in the midst of a turnaround, stress and burnout were emerging as challenges for its workforce.

“We wanted to give our employees new tools for managing stress and the app gave them meditation, sleep, and movement offerings that were good for building resilience and easy to use,” he says.

Once the pandemic hit, Mattel began offering live guided meditations, recruiting senior leaders, including the head of the Barbie brand, to lead some of them. The company also rolled out webinars for managers specific to preventing burnout among staff, including how to recognize signs of it among their workers.

“I can’t overestimate how important it has been for us to have regular and ongoing communication about all these programs and how committed Mattel is to employee well-being,” Saucier says. “If we don’t do this right we’re going to lose people.”

CEOs are getting onboard



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