Almost a fifth (18%) of employees believe their mental health is currently poor, or very poor, compared to just 5% before the coronavirus struck.
That number is considerably higher amongst unemployed workers, of which 27% are reporting poor or very poor mental health, versus 7% before the pandemic.
In addition, 42% of those employed and 47% of unemployed say their stress levels are currently high or very high, with top stressors including COVID-19, personal finances, current events, concern over their family’s health, the economy, and job responsibilities.
That’s according to a survey of 1,500 U.S. adults–53% employed and 47% unemployed–by FlexJobs in partnership with Mental Health America. Results were collected in late July.
Four in 10 employees say they have experienced burnout during the pandemic specifically, and 37% report they are working longer hours because of the virus. Yet only 21% said they were able to have open, productive conversations with HR about solutions to their burnout. More than half (56%) said their companies did not encourage such conversations.
Having more flexibility in their workday (56%) was overwhelmingly listed as the top way a workplace could better support people. Encouraging time off and offering mental health days were tied for second and third place with 43%. Next was increased paid time off and better health insurance, cited by 28%.
Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO at Mental Health America said: “Company leadership, including executives, HR, and management, have a responsibility to their employees to model and talk openly about behaviors that reduce stress, prevent burnout, and help employees establish the appropriate boundaries when working remotely.
“Offering flexibility during the workday, encouraging employees to use their PTO when they need a vacation, and providing time off for employees to tend to their mental health can help employees at all levels of a company cope with COVID-19 and other stressors.”
How to avoid and beat burnout:
- Try timed sprints. Not only does the countdown focus your mind on the task in front of you, it makes breaks an unavoidable part of your work day. It’s very easy to forget to take substantial screen breaks or to get outside in the fresh air when working from home. Play around with a timetable that suits you best e.g. 1.5 hours on, 30 minutes off. Communicate with your employer so they know what you’re doing.
- Use your breaks wisely. Think about what clears your head and do more of it. For some, it’s a long walk with the dog, for others it’s 30 minutes of front room yoga, or reading a few chapters of a really good book. Plan those activities in advance so you don’t have to waste time hunting down equipment. Get your eyes away from the screen and make the most of your minutes off.
- Avoid the news. The news is increasingly harrowing and it can have a powerful effect on our mood and concentration. The answer is to curate what you read, and to save your news consumption for after the work day ends. Timetable an evening slot for catching up on current affairs and turn off app notifications on your phone.
- Speak to your employer. Many people have taken on additional work as colleagues have been furloughed or made redundant. For some, the new workload is simply unrealistic. Speak to your employer and manage their expectations about what you can and cannot achieve. Keep the lines of communication open.
- Access mental health benefits. Does your employer offer any mental health employee benefits like counselling, psychotherapy, or free access to meditation apps? If you feel you need these, make use of them.
- Confide in a friend at work. Speak to a trusted friend and colleague who understands the environment and the workload about how you’re feeling. Chances are you won’t be the only person suffering from burnout, and there’s comfort in knowing that you’re not alone.
- Use your PTO. Many employees have been reluctant to use their allowance during coronavirus, but paid time off isn’t just for holidays, it’s also for keeping you mentally well. Holidaying in your home town can have the same benefits for your mental health.