In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are prioritizing mental health resources for employees, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Trends Report.

The immense toll that the pandemic took on our collective mental health has been well-documented. Two-thirds of employees report that their mental health suffered during the pandemic and negatively impacted their work performance, according to a 2020 survey. At least 40% of employees say they are struggling with burnout.

The economic impact of an international mental health crisis should not be taken lightly. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy one trillion dollars per year in lost productivity. However, the WHO also reports that every $1 spent treating common mental health problems yields a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.

The bottom line: it is worth investing in employees’ mental health, especially right now.

The majority of employers in the U.S. are doing exactly that. To combat the strain that the pandemic has had on the workforce, 88% of employers increased their investment in mental health programs this year. This includes telemedicine, which saw the biggest increase in popularity of all wellness benefits.

It has become common for employers to offer free or low-cost virtual counseling appointments to employees, but virtual appointments are only one component of a holistic approach to mental health care. Most employers (81%) have adopted wellness programs that also promote stress management and resilience. Many companies (69%) have even incorporated mindfulness and meditation into their wellness offering, according to Wellable’s 2021 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report.

Experts predict that although the focus on mental health began as a symptom of the pandemic, wellness programs that prioritize mental health are here to stay.

As many companies transition to a hybrid work environment, employers and managers should stay privy to the unique stresses that accompany remote work in the home office. Working from home can make it difficult for supervisors to identify when something is wrong due to limited face-to-face interaction with employees.

The World Economic Forum says organizations must “maintain an awareness of the workplace environment and how it can be adapted to promote better mental health for different employees.” The home office is no exception. Of course there is a limit to what employers can control while employees work remotely, but they can set their employees up for success.

In addition to mental health resources that help employees cope with the enduring stress of the pandemic, employers should also provide preventative wellness programming. A fitness benefit that gives remote employees access to virtual workouts is one such option. Research shows that employees who exercise regularly are happier, healthier, and more productive.

Both the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organization say that a healthy work-life balance is the key to good mental health among employees. Investing in mental health resources is a positive step in the right direction, but the work doesn’t stop there. Employers have done an excellent job responding to the current mental health crisis, but how will they protect their employees’ mental health in the future?

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