2021 Workplace Mental Health Trends:
… Including Even More Focus On Supportive Mental Health Conversations
What Do We Know about Workplace Mental Health Trends?
Mental Health Has Become a Global Priority
2020 has brought on more stress for many teams and workplaces, than any year in recent memory.
Anxiety from the pandemic has altered everyday routines, uncertainty has put people on edge, and physical distancing has left many feeling disconnected. While trying to adjust to these changes many Canadians have raised concerns about their worsening mental health.
A recent Angus Reid Institute study indicated that in 2019, 67% of Canadians said that their mental health was good or very good, while in 2020 only 53% said the same. Isolation, decreased social interactions, as well as worry about financial security and health, are among the main factors contributing to this trend.
As we head into the gloomier days of winter, it’s predicted that employees’ mental health will decline even more as stresses from continued uncertainty, the lack luster holidays, and colder weather further impact our coping.
We are on the cusp of a mental health crisis. Many leaders and team members are feeling anxious, fatigued and close to burning out. If this continues it will impact employee engagement, productivity and absenteeism in 2021. And companies like Deloitte are reporting that the mental health fallout from COVID could last years.
What Are We Seeing?
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced mental health and wellness to become a mainstream topic of discussion. In 2021, Workplace Mental Health Trends will see every company needing to become a ‘healthcare company’, as safeguarding employees and customers becomes a core requirement of doing business. Leaders will need to focus on building resiliency, increasing social connectedness, and combatting the overwhelm in order to survive and thrive.
Top Three Predicted Mental Health Trends for 2021
- Focus will be on fostering a resilient workforce.
Resiliency is the ability to overcome challenges and move forward in the face of adversity. Fostering a resilient workforce is critical as organizations will need to continually adapt to the changing environment.
Resiliency skills can be learned, tweaked, and nurtured. To help build a strong and resilient workforce, employers will need to integrate resiliency training into their workplace wellness offering, focus on building holistic wellness strategies into their benefits plan, and boost mental health education of their leaders.
Successful leaders and HR professionals will be those who keep a sharp focus on building resilience and social connection as protective mechanisms against the feelings of overwhelm, isolation, depression and anxiety.
Successful leaders and HR professionals will be those who keep a sharp focus on building resilience and social connection as protective mechanisms against the feelings of overwhelm, isolation, depression and anxiety. Click to tweet
Workplace Mental Health Trends will see that multiple check ins will be needed and include things like pulse surveys, and focus groups to monitor progress.
Integrating remote learning will become critical. In-person training usually offers the benefit of social connection; however, this type of training will be put on hold until the fall of 2021 and beyond. On-line platforms will instead offer the benefit of being able to engage experts who can provide tailored mental health strategies to your team without the customary travel and business disruption. Throughout 2021, we will also see coaching circles that allow employees to work in cohorts on common topics with the support of experts.
- Wellness and positive mental health will be every leader’s priority.
COVID-19 is leaving a path of destruction that will result in an Echo Pandemic. This Echo Pandemic will be a crisis of mental health issues and illnesses. Those that were experiencing high stress, burnout, depression, and/or anxiety before, will see even greater impacts on their mental health. History has shown us that we should expect more issues around substance abuse, Posttraumatic Stress, and even higher rates of suicide, if we don’t start to focus on building resiliency and holding supportive mental conversations.
The pandemic has profoundly changed workplaces and the ways in which work is conducted. Many companies made the switch to remote work and adopted to facilitate this change. A study by the Conference Board of Canada indicates that nearly two thirds of organizations have at least 60% of their workforce working remotely today. And this trend is here to stay for the foreseeable future. 55% of employers say they will be keeping at least half of their employees working from home going forward.
Without daily face-to-face contact, it will continue to be difficult for leaders to assess whether their teams are overworked or taking the right precautions to safeguard their health. We know that a managers’ support is vital in creating a positive work environment and in encouraging active participation in well-being practices. By investing in mental health-related leadership training on how to recognize mental health issues and how to hold supportive mental health conversations, employers can help their leaders understand and effectively promote positive mental health within their team.
Additionally, leaders need to promote social connectedness and community involvement. A recent study by the Angus Reid Institute indicates that the significant drop in social activities during the pandemic has taken its toll on Canadians. The percentage of those saying they have a good social life has dropped from more than half in 2019 (55 per cent) to just one in-three (33 per cent) this year. Although physical isolation is necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19, it also carries significant mental health risks for the workforce. For leaders, it will be important to actively encourage and facilitate regular communication with employees and find ways for them to remain connected to the workplace and their colleagues in 2021.
- There will be a need for a more holistic approach to employee wellness benefits.
Mental wellness offerings will need to become even more holistic and inclusive of all types of needs that contribute to employee happiness.
To lower chronic disease rates and mental health related issues and limit their impact on healthcare and benefits costs, employers and benefits providers will need to offer preventive benefits that boost workplace wellness, as opposed to focusing only on treatment.
Mental health benefits and programs work best when they are based on the specific needs of your teams. 2021 will see a focus on aligning your benefits and programs with the concerns of your employee population and company goals to help increase employee satisfaction with your programs and benefits, and improve utilization. This will be even more critical as research says that there will be an increase in the costs of employer-provided health plans in Canada – estimations are that they will rise by 7.2 per cent in 2021.
Before you start analyzing if new programs will work for your company, it makes sense to understand how your current benefits and programs are working. You want to understand the depth and breadth of current offerings to find any potential holes in coverage. To avoid adding new benefits that go unused, you need to know how employees are utilizing the current services available to them.
According to a Mintel report on health management trends for 2020, more than half of adults say their reason for setting health and wellness goals each year is to feel happier. In 2021, simple solutions for stress, anxiety, burnout or exhaustion will be needed, that specifically encourage happiness and build a sense of community.
Wellness Plans may need to consider the following trends:
- When it comes to wellness, simple and convenient actions are more likely to have a lasting impact and help adults feel in control of their routines. Technology will play its part in mitigating the negative impact of the times on our health, especially health apps that monitor our activity and remind us to take breaks and exercise, meditation and mindfulness apps, and remote therapeutic services.
For example, getting more sleep was the top 2020 goal people wanted to start focusing on, as it was an attainable way to achieve mental, emotional and physical health. For many, this was an elusive goal in 2020. In 2021, getting a good night’s sleep will be viewed as the foundation of self-care and healthy living.
2021 will see our employees being more open to acknowledging mental wellness and how common feelings of stress, anxiety, burnout or depression are impacting their daily life. Mood forecasting technology has shown that changes in the human mental state, notably sadness, stress or anxiety, results in physiological triggers and if monitored can aid in promoting mental health or in the early detection of undiagnosed conditions or episodes.
- In Canada and the US, the number of virtual care visits have skyrocketed during the pandemic. In the US, analysts predict that the number of visits will hit one billion by the end of 2020. It’s also predicted that during 2021, one third of virtual care appointments will be related to mental health issues.
A recent poll shows that Canadians are very satisfied with the virtual care options they use as a result of the pandemic. In fact, they would even like to see them improved and expanded in the future. Digital health platforms and apps can improve access to mental health professionals and ensure issues are being addressed and treated in a timely and efficient manner. Providing advanced digital health tools also means plan sponsors and employers can take a more preventative approach to employees’ mental and physical health. This can lead to better health outcomes.
Workplace Mental Health Trends Conclusion
We are on the cusp of a potential mental health crisis. Anxiety, fatigue, and burnout will impact employee engagement, productivity, and absenteeism, if we fail to focus on the mental health needs of our employees. Safeguarding our employees will be a core requirement if we are to succeed as an organization. HR professionals and company leaders will need to focus on building resiliency, increasing the comfort around supportive mental health conversations, and tailoring their benefits plans to meet the current issues, in order to survive and thrive. One thing that we know, is that we don’t know what 2021 will look like. One thing that won’t change, is the need to focus on the mental health of our teams in order to cope with the unknown ahead of us.
Contact Beverly about hosting a workshop for your team in building resiliency and addressing mental health challenges. Learn to nail down strategies to encourage a supportive working environment!
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!
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