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Employers Are Bracing for a Mental Health Crisis

October 2, 2020

By Heather Nezich, Courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Mental health, modified school schedules, and more leave requests are some of employers’ biggest challenges heading into the Fall. Many companies have made accommodations to make their business and their employees more resilient for what’s ahead, according to new research from employee benefits provider Unum.

“It’s no surprise mental health concerns are mounting,” said Rob Hecker, vice president of Global Total Rewards at Unum. “Companies that use accommodations, mental health benefits, and virtual solutions will be better equipped to weather the storm.”

According to the research, 85% of employers are concerned with employees’ mental health as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Three out of five employers have plans or offerings to specifically address employee mental health. In addition, more than half (58%) of employers have seen an increase in the use of mental health benefits during the pandemic, and two out of three companies expect an uptick in the Fall.

Employers are offering new accommodations to meet the demands of modified school schedules. According to the survey:

  • Nearly nine out of ten (87%) employers predict modified school schedules will be a challenge for employees.
  • Top impacts employers anticipate include employee productivity, increase in leave requests, shifting employee workloads due to employee absences, and mental health.
  • More than half (57%) of employers are making specific accommodations to help employees balance work with modified school schedules.
  • Top accommodations include flexible work schedules (76%), full-time work-from-home arrangements (58%), reduced work hours (48%), childcare services (39%), paid leave (29%), among others.

Working parents are stressed out. The disruption of COVID-19 has left parents feeling guilty about how they’re managing work and family responsibilities during the pandemic. According to another survey from Catalyst-CNBC, over half of parents, 54%, said they feel guilty working because they are not able to attend to their caregiving responsibilities, while 43% said they feel guilty when they are caregiving because they cannot attend to their work tasks.

Despite this dynamic, most parents plan to keep their children in virtual learning, even as two-thirds of parents report that their children’s school is currently open or planning to reopen for in-person learning. The same number of parents, 66%, also report that they are keeping their children in 100% remote or virtual learning. Only 20% plan to have their children participate in 100% in-person, classroom learning, and 57% of parents are either against the idea of sending their children back to in-person school or are unsure.

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