The mental health impacts of COVID-19 are especially real for millennials and parents. Here's what companies should do to help, according to a VP at WebMD.
- Christine Muldoon is the vice president of
strategyat WebMDHealth Services.
- A recent WebMD study shows how employers can best support workers amid the pandemic, and which groups need the most support.
- Millennials, who suffer anxiety at higher rates than other age groups, are also more likely to have young kids at home, meaning they're working at home while
parentingand teaching kids.
- Offering parental leave, advice resources, access to telehealth therapy, and online exercise are ways to support employees who need it.
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In this new normal of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, isolation not only exacerbates peoples' existing mental
That is why, now more than ever, it's crucial that employers do their part to keep employees as emotionally and mentally healthy as possible.
Recently, my firm, WebMD Health Services, surveyed 2,000 full-time employees at large companies about different aspects of their health and wellbeing. Our findings show how employers can best support their teams in the age of coronavirus — and which groups may need more emotional support than others.
Millenials and parents need a lot of support right now
Millennials, who make up half the labor force, suffer from anxiety more than any other generation. With daycares and schools shuttered nationwide, millennials are also the most likely to have young children at home. Our research shows 76% of millennial caregivers reported high stress levels well before the pandemic. There's no doubt that their stress has only intensified in recent weeks.
Caregivers may feel overwhelmed because they're suddenly playing double duty. Parents now have to complete eight or more hours of work from home, while simultaneously feeding, entertaining, and even educating their children.
Parents also worry about their children's mental health. The pandemic has cut off children from their friends and robbed teenagers of milestones like prom and graduation. Parents have to support their children as they grieve these losses, and help them navigate the constant stream of pandemic news. And some parents worry about putting enough food on the table, or whether their savings will suffice if their spouse is laid off.
Here's everything employers should consider to support workers
Now is the time for employers to get creative in boosting workers' mental and emotional health. By doing so, firms can prove they genuinely care about their employees and their families in a severely stressful time. These gestures and assistance will pay dividends down the road.
Employers can support employees struggling with stress and anxiety by subsidizing telehealth visits with mental health professionals or web-based meditation classes. The World Health Organization estimates that for every dollar US employers invest in treating common mental health issues, they earn $4 back in increased employee health and productivity.
For employees who find expert advice reassuring, employers can suggest podcasts that offer mindfulness tips, coping mechanisms, and advice for parenting in a pandemic. Employers can even provide educational resources to keep families entertained — like the daily virtual storytime session Vox Media offers employees and their kids.
And companies can support employees' roles as caregivers by expanding paid family leave policies. That would enable parents to take more time off to facilitate their kids' remote schooling.
Of course, keeping employees physically healthy is still important. With gyms closed across the country, employers can host virtual, family-friendly yoga classes or simply encourage employees to get fresh air by playing a game of backyard soccer or taking a walk with family members. Multiple studies point to the mental and emotional health benefits of being in nature and taking in natural sunlight.
Firms can also prevent their workers' interpersonal relationships from atrophying. Organizing virtual coffees and happy hours have certainly helped me over the last few weeks.
This crisis will end. When it does, people will remember which employers went out of their way to help them during some of their most difficult moments.
We're all facing unprecedented challenges. It's up to employers to adjust their mental health programs accordingly to show their employees they genuinely care about them as people. Everyone will be stronger — and healthier — for it.
Christine Muldoon is the vice president of strategy at WebMD Health Services.
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