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Post-pandemic, mental health initiatives need to evolve

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Organizations need to actively revisit their mental health initiatives in the context of the new challenges that employees face today. 
mental health initiatives workplace

A Firstup survey of 23,105 global respondents across the UK, United States, Germany, Nordic countries and Benelux, has found that despite all the “talk” about mental health support, programs, and policies in organizations, employees aren’t seeing them as helpful and meaningful initiatives. It’s worth noting that the survey respondents were made up of a hybrid workforce of 50% desk-based and 50% deskless workers from a wide mix of professions – so fairly representative of the current business environment. 

The findings are revealing. 19% of the employees noted that their employer only started showing interest in supporting their mental health since the pandemic. Furthermore, 22% felt that their employer has the intention to support their mental health, but they don’t feel supported.

In a digital workplace, delivering genuine mental health support requires more than wellness programs that have typically included things like workout sessions, time off, and the like. While not dismissing these benefits, as they are worth continuing, the reality is that their impact in a digital and dispersed workforce is limited.

Some thoughts for consideration:

Think about the childcare challenges that working parents face

With employees attending global meetings during early mornings and late nights, at the very least, offering flexible hours can allow them to have an actual eight-hour workday. This is critical to helping employees maintain their work-life balance and have some semblance of distinction between work and home. 29% of respondents said that they would welcome more flexible working hours within the working week, to allow them to juggle the demands of kids, a two-income household, and the now seemingly endless workday. 

29% of respondents said that they would welcome more flexible working hours within the working week.

We all know that childcare isn’t cheap

During the pandemic, some companies demonstrated great flexibility and agility in offering benefits that supported their employees. For example, some added child-care benefits such as backup child care and stipends for college counseling services and tutoring. Others who already offered child daycare subsidies expanded the benefit to allow employees to hire in-home nannies.

One of the biggest barriers for working parents is lack of access to affordable child care.

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Consider caregivers of family members and aging parents

Historically, organizations’ benefits packages have included parental leave and childcare, but typically no formal policies exist to support employees who care for relatives and loved ones. Flexible working hours can go a long way in alleviating caregiving-related stress and anxiety, which can take a tremendous toll on employees’ mental health. 

Shifting priorities

To truly support their employees’ mental health, organizations will do well to recognize that in this new work environment, their staff faces new challenges – which in turn means that companies must actively revisit their employee wellness schemes and programs to meaningfully provide support. This also requires a mindset change from the top down so that it can become part of the organization’s evolved culture. 

The Great Resignation is a clear indication that across industry sectors, the pandemic has changed people’s priorities – health, well-being, and personal happiness, at least for the short term future, surpasses even the most highly competitive salaries. 

In the next blog in this series, I’ll discuss how organizations can facilitate employee engagement to prevent burnout. Stay tuned.

For more information, please visit How to deliver a real workplace wellness program.

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Brittany Barhite

Brittany Barhite

Dr. Brittany Barhite is the Communication and Employee Experience Director at Firstup. She has more than 16 years of experience in employee, leadership and external communications. Prior to Firstup, Brittany handled internal communications for a Fortune 500 company, overseeing employee and executive communications. Her experience and education provide a fresh internal communications approach that is focused on creative storytelling and transforming the employee digital experience.

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