The pair of mass shootings in the nation that happened over the last week is only the latest event to have hurt employees’ mental health. The events that occurred in Boulder, Colorado, and Atlanta follow a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, social, racial and political unrest, and the Capitol riots that occurred earlier this year.
“The isolating quarantines, health anxiety and stream of disturbing stories of hate and violence in the headlines are all creating a surge of stressors that stake up and slowly drain employees’ mental and emotional capacity to cope,” says Carrie Bevis, managing director of communities and partnerships at research firm i4cp.
Scores of surveys and research have found that mental health has been on the decline over the last year. Rates of depression, anxiety and stress are up exponentially. And Limeade found that employee burnout has increased by 40% in the past year.
“Many organizations have tried to support weary employees by instituting regular one-on-one wellbeing check-ins with managers,” Bevis says. “But managers who ask reports how they are may find themselves facing an uncomfortable barrage of sensitive and personal issues that they are underprepared or unqualified to handle.”
Bevis says that in addition to encouraging time off and mental health days, organizations must ask what behaviors are actually being incentivized. “If there is a persistent culture of long hours and wearing burnout as a badge of honor, then even the most sophisticated programs are unlikely to provide support,” she says. “In fact, underutilized wellbeing programs do more harm than good since a stigma builds around using them at all.”