How employee well-being is affected by emotional distress

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Employers across industries are realizing how important mental and emotional health is to overall employee well-being. This shift had begun before the upheaval of the coronavirus crisis: A recent MetLife survey found that nearly 75% of employers indicated that managing workplace burnout and employee stress was a priority for 2020.[1] But the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the social distancing that began in mid-March has made employee well-being at all levels even more critical to prioritize for now and moving forward. This is because employee well-being is closely tied to company productivity and performance, so protecting the workforce is also about protecting the bottom line.

Emotional distress and employee well-being

Employee well-being refers to a person’s ability to thrive by finding balance in work, play and relationships—essentially to “be well” in life and work. True well-being is about being healthy and centered physically, socially, financially, mentally and emotionally.

The mental and emotional health are vitally important; however, many workplaces are lacking when it comes to effective support for these components of employee well-being. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the MetLife study indicated that their employers’ benefit offerings do not include helpful mental health support.[2] Traditional approaches like employer assistance programs (EAPs) can fall short, especially during and after a time of increased strain. As employers begin to prioritize employee mental health and well-being amidst the unfolding public health and economic crises, it’s imperative that they implement benefits strategies that will allow them to sustain these efforts. Supplemental benefits solutions that combine coverage for mental health, well-being and beyond in addition to offering innovative and accessible support services to employees, can protect their workforce and their bottom line.

Of course, while the pandemic has increased mental and emotional distress, other factors play a part too- personal crises such as illness, separation and divorce, caregiving responsibilities and more can also contribute. The pressure of juggling multiple roles or responsibilities on the job or trying to keep up with the demands of leadership, can threaten mental and emotional health. An always-on culture that blurs the lines between work and home is a top contributor to workplace burnout at all levels, which according to Gallup affects up to two-thirds of the US workforce.[3]

Employers recognize the threat and are beginning to be aware of the need for support and intervention sooner. A 2019 Aon survey on emotional health put numbers to this growing awareness at least among HR leaders: 86% of employer respondents pegged emotional health as one of the top three factors influencing overall employee well-being. And 85% indicated that they believe the employer is key in supporting overall employee emotional health.[4]

How emotional distress affects employee well-being at work

Changing attitudes toward mental and emotional health and support toward employee well-being are important, because emotional distress can show up in many ways in the workplace. And this distress affects business processes and productivity, compliance and workplace safety—and ultimately the bottom line. Let’s take a look at some of these common symptoms and their consequences, as revealed by the Aon report.[5]

  • Poor mental health and emotional distress can affect the quality and quantity of employees’ sleep, leading to tardiness, reduced productivity and more safety-related mishaps.
  • Mental health affects cognitive function and reduced cognitive function can create indecision and project delays.
  • Emotional distress can affect concentration or contribute to forgetfulness, which can drive up the incidence of errors and omissions and increase procrastination.
  • When mental and emotional health suffer, morale and engagement are affected, which reduce productivity.
  • When employees are feeling emotional distress, they are more likely to be tearful or irritable, which can strain relationships both at work and home. This strain can affect colleague, boss and customer relationships.

How to protect the workforce and the bottom line

If employee well-being was already a concern before COVID-19, the crisis has dealt a further blow to mental and emotional health. Emotional distress comes at a high cost: The World Health Organization has estimated that anxiety and depression cost the global economy more than $1 trillion annually.[6] In the US, the cost is estimated at $500 billion annually, at a toll of more than 550 million missed workdays per year.[7]

With its links to productivity and performance, employee well-being affects the bottom line. And with so much uncertainty still ahead, now is the time for employers to put support into place, specifically support that can address mental health needs at all levels of the workforce.

But not all support is created equal. Effective solutions require an innovative approach, one that combines coverage with support. Coverage can include prescriptions and access to alternative medicine, such as massage therapy, that can reduce stress and promote better well-being. And support can give employees access to the care they need to reduce distress—and bring less of it to the workplace.

In response to the growing need for effective support, ArmadaCare has introduced a new plan for employees at all levels. WellPak with Guide takes an innovative approach by combining coverage and support in a single supplemental indemnity insurance plan. In addition to WellPak with Guide, ArmadaCare offers other solutions that support employee well-being by helping to manage stress and nurture mental health. Learn more about WellPak with Guide here.

[1]US MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study, 2020
[3]Gallup, 2018
[4]Aon 2019 Emotional Health Survey
[6]World Health Organization
[7]Harvard Business Review, 2019

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