HRE Number of the Day: mental health

New research reveals employers' expectations for workforce stress levels in the coming months.
By: | April 30, 2020 • 2 min read
(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)


64%: Percentage of survey respondents who anticipate their employees will have higher than normal levels of stress and anxiety in the next three to six months

As employers shift their coronavirus strategizing to creating return-to-work plans, aspects like office redesign to allow for social distancing and benefits enhancements to help workers through the challenging times may be commonly discussed. According to new research, organizations should also pay close attention to mental health. In a survey by Willis Towers Watson of more than 200 employers across multiple industries that collectively employ nearly 2.5 million people, 64% reported they anticipate their employees will be more stressed and anxious than usual in the next few months. Related, 60% believe they will be challenged to help employees tap into resiliency in the coming months.

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What it means for HR leaders

While increased stress and anxiety during and following a global pandemic would be a no-brainer, it’s one that still requires employer action, says Casey Hauch, senior director of communication and change management at Willis Towers Watson. One step all employers should take to alleviate the burden on both managers and employees is increased training and development opportunities, Hauch says.

“It’s really important that managers are supporting continued flexibility and are doing so consistently upon return to work,” she says, “demonstrating an understanding of employee needs, and managing teams and work accordingly.”

Communication has emerged as one of the driving forces of employee resiliency during the pandemic. Hauch adds that “over”-communication is not a bad thing, as workers are hungry for information—even if it’s a simple “we don’t know” message. Employers can also tackle rising stress levels by doubling down on connecting employees to the company purpose.

“This pandemic has really highlighted the need for having a greater purpose than just profits, and perhaps caused some organizations to question whether theirs is clear enough—to customers, community, employees and other stakeholders,” Hauch says. “To articulate and connect employees with purpose and reason for being in this new world will be critical.”

Read all of HRE‘s coronavirus coverage here.

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.