As I sit in my newly converted home office, I see various Holiday cards I received from colleagues and business associates, all of which express best wishes for a happy and healthy 2021. Wishes for a healthy new year have taken on a whole new meaning these days. In the past, we might have wished that our business partners and their families stay well by avoiding unplanned surgeries, heart disease, or serious diagnoses like cancer. Of course, we still hope for that. But we now have an entirely new ailment to contend with – one that did not exist as we rang in 2020: COVID-19.
COVID-19 is now claiming more lives per day than Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attack on 9/11. Some who survive COVID-19 will have lasting detrimental health effects. Some who are infected have mild symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all. Some of us have been spared the physical effects of the disease . . . so far.
Regardless of how COVID-19 has impacted each of us physically, however, we all have one thing in common when it comes to this dreadful disease – deteriorating mental health. On any given day, right after reporting the number of new “cases,” the news media tells us about the increases in drug addiction, homelessness, and suicides. Our emotional well-being is suffering due to the constant fear and despair we have experienced now for over ten straight months.
There is no place we will feel the effects of this emotional pandemic more than in the workplace. As employees who are fortunate enough to still have jobs return to work in January and the coming months of 2021, rather than focusing on their annual goals, they will inevitably still be preoccupied with questions: “Will I get it? Will a loved one get it? How do I manage child care? When will my kids go back to in-person school? Will the vaccine work?”, etc.
Since these daunting questions will occupy the thoughts of employees, they need to be top of mind for employers as well. Experts predict that mental health will be the number one workplace challenge in 2021 and it is easy to see why. We are simply not equipped to face this much stress for this long a time. So, as employers face the many business challenges of 2021, including continued financial struggles, safe return-to-work protocols, and/or continued remote work programs, employers must be mindful of the emotional struggles of their workforce and make employee mental health the top priority on the Human Resources annual plan.
Does your company need assistance developing or implementing mental health plans or annual HR plans? The consultants at Foundations can help. Contact us to assist with this or any of your other Human Resources needs.
– Stephanie Prewitt, Executive Director