The threat of COVID-19 appears to be flattening and companies are looking at ways to safely bring employees back into the workplace. And while it’s important to figure out how to enforce social distancing and keep work areas sanitized, the psychological challenges of working during a pandemic should not be underestimated.
Mental health experts recommend that employers pay particular attention to employees’ mental health.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that one in five adults in the United States will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. The effects of mental illness often seep into the workplace. The rate of unemployment is higher among U.S. adults who have mental illness, and the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that the annual cost of depression is estimated at $44 billion in lost productivity to American companies.
Ways to promote good mental health in your place of business include:
Be proactive: Employees rarely first visit their human resources department when they are dealing with depression. Instead, they talk to a co-worker or manager. Oftentimes they exhibit symptoms of depression, like decreased energy, poor concentration or low esteem. Educate your managers to look for warning signs and to know what to say if an employee talks to them about their concerns. Managers also need to be empowered to offer reasonable accommodations to help the employee and minimize the damage to the organization. Accommodations could include a less noisy office space or help with a workload.
Review your health plans: The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 is a federal law that requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to offer plans that have substance abuse and mental health benefits comparable to the other medical benefits in your plan. For example, a plan cannot put more restrictive visit limits or impose higher cost sharing on mental health treatment than they would on treatment of a physical ailment.
Make resources available: Make sure your employees have the resources they need, like counseling. If you have an Employee Assistance Program, which gives employee free access to counseling and substance abuse programs, as well as legal assistance and adoption assistance, remind employees how to get in touch with these professionals. Some health plans, like Allied National’s Funding Advantage plans, partner with providers who proactively reach out to members who are in a high-risk category. By pairing these members with coaches, the members receive the benefit of regular attention by experienced professionals.
Initiate flexible work schedules: It’s not unusual for employees who are depressed to have difficulties sleeping. By implementing core hours (hours which all team members must be at the office) and a flexible work schedule, an employee can come to work when they are feeling more productive.
Encourage employees to take PTO: Paid time off (PTO) allows employees who take time off for any reason – including taking a mental health day – to come back rested and refreshed.
Being proactive and making sure your employees have the support they need at work can be a big part of their recovery.
Founded in 1970, Allied National is one of the nation's oldest and most experienced third-party administrators. We're the small group benefit experts working to provide unique and affordable group health benefits to small business employers.
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Allied National is a 90 Degree Benefits Company, a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. Founded in 1970, Allied National is one of the nation's oldest and most experienced third-party administrators. We're the small group benefit experts working to provide unique and affordable group health benefits to small business employers.