- The coronavirus pandemic is having a pretty negative impact on people’s mental health.
- Employees are working longer hours, many are struggling with childcare duties, and overall, people are less able to concentrate because of coronavirus-related stress and anxiety, per the Mental Health Index.
- Anisha Patel-Dunn, psychiatrist and chief medical officer at LifeStance Health, recommends approaching your boss or HR manager to talk about it.
- Maureen Kennedy, lead professional coach at Bravely, a company that offers workers with career advice, shared a sample script of what to tell your boss if you know you’re struggling.
- If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or suicidal thoughts, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) anytime for free, confidential help or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The coronavirus pandemic is taking a huge toll on the mental health of Americans.
Parents are struggling with childcare duties. Employees are working longer hours. And the attention span of the average American is down 31% in August when compared to pre-pandemic times, per the Mental Health Index, a survey conducted by mental health app Total Brain, the American Health Policy Institute, and other organizations.
And yet few are talking about this stress with their managers.
Only one in 5 of employees discussed their mental health with a supervisor, and just 5% said they spoke with an HR representative, per a July survey of 1,000 workers by HR and payroll company Paychex.
People are afraid talking about their mental health could hurt their careers.
Some 30% of employees fear discussing pandemic-related anxiety could get them fired or furloughed, or may cost them a promotion. That’s a problem not only on a personal level, but on a business level too — burnout is associated with less productivity, more absenteeism, and higher turnover.
Breaking the stigma around mental health in the workplace is important. Here’s what experts recommend.
How to talk about your mental health issues with your boss
Anisha Patel-Dunn, psychiatrist and chief medical officer at LifeStance Health, recommends asking for a one-on-one video chat to talk about it.
If you know what you’d like to request from your boss to ease your workload, you can something like: “I’ve been struggling with a lot of stress and anxiety and would like to request some changes to my schedule or time-off, etc.”
“Be as honest and as candid as you can be. Many managers and supervisors are experiencing the same emotions and/or have loved ones struggling with these issues,” the psychiatrist told Business Insider.
It’s also OK to bring it up if you don’t know exactly what you’d like from your boss, according to Maureen Kennedy, lead professional coach at Bravely, a career coaching company.
She suggests saying something like: “I’ve been dealing with some intense changes in my family life, and it’s been a major source of anxiety for me lately. I know I’ve been distracted during the workday as a result of this, and it’s taking a toll on my ability to be ‘on’ the way I need to be. I don’t know exactly how to solve this, because it’s an ongoing situation, but I think it could be helpful for both of us if we spent more time in our check-ins setting goals and priorities so I can know when I’m on track and when I’m getting behind.”
If you’re not comfortable talking about it with your boss, approach your HR manager.
Think about the accommodations at work you’re interested in: perhaps a more flexible work schedule (to speak with a therapist), a decrease in work hours, or a temporary reduction in workload.
“If they are really struggling, they should request time off. In the same way that someone would ask for time off if they had the flu or a broken leg, someone who is struggling with anxiety and burnout from covid-related stress should do the same,” Patel-Dunn added.
What managers can do to proactively encourage workers to talk about their mental health and avoid burnout
Breaking the stigma around mental health starts with leadership.
“If the manager feels comfortable, they might share an anecdote about a challenge they are facing. It could involve parenting, schooling, dealing with older parents,” Patel-Dunn said.
Asking employees directly how they’re feeling is important, too.
Kennedy suggests asking specific questions like:“How’s your day going so far?” or “What’s your state of mind?” or “What’s your biggest obstacle right now?”
“Don’t be afraid to ask more than once to get to a more truthful answer,” she added.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or suicidal thoughts, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) anytime for free, confidential help or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741