Diversity & Inclusion

‘Burnt Out, Hopeless, Drained’—Mental Health Concerns Are Prevalent During COVID-19

We recently shared new research that reveals the negative impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on workers’ mental health abroad, but how is it impacting workers right here in the United States?

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Source: Mangostar / shutterstock

New research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a warning to U.S. companies about the psychological costs of COVID-19. While millions find themselves unemployed, 41% of U.S. employees feel burnt out from work, while another 23% report feeling depressed.

The survey on the mental health of U.S. workers under lockdown also found employees are struggling with negative emotions, concentration, and motivation. Notably, rates were higher among women, younger workers, and those living with a vulnerable person.

Key findings include:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) employees report feeling down, depressed, or hopeless often.
  • 41% feel burnt out, drained, or exhausted from their work.
  • More than 1 in 5 employees report COVID-19 has threatened the tangible parts of their jobs to a great extent or to a very great extent, including personal opportunities, job security, safe working conditions, and benefits and pay.
  • Over 1 in 3 employees (37%) reported having done nothing to cope with these feelings, and only 7% have reached out to a mental health professional.

The research also found women, younger workers, and those living with a vulnerable person (i.e., health workers, essential employees, those over 65 years old, and the immunocompromised) were more severely impacted by COVID-19.

For instance, women (51%) are more likely than men (47%) to report feeling down, depressed, or hopeless often. Half of Generation Z employees (51%) agree their work makes them feel burned out compared with 24% of Baby Boomers.

“It’s a timely reminder … that there’s more to this crisis than new cases and economic costs,” says SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, in a SHRM press release. “COVID-19 is taking a toll on our minds and emotions in a million little ways. Now, more than ever, employers should double down against stigmas and guarantee employees know of the resources, benefits, and accommodations available.”

Accommodations During COVID-19

In the wake of the pandemic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated its technical assistance Q&As, answering additional questions about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on federal employment laws the agency enforces.

When it comes to accommodating requests related to COVID-19, BLR® Senior Legal Editor Joan Farrell says, “It’s important for employers to remember that employees are not required to use ‘magic words’ or mention the [Americans with Disabilities Act] when asking for an accommodation. As long as the employee lets the employer know that a change at work is needed for a reason related to a medical condition, that’s likely to suffice as an accommodation request.”

And if you’re concerned an employee is sick and could be a danger to others, Farrell adds that “when considering whether an employee poses a direct threat, the employer must conduct an individualized assessment about the employee’s ability to safely perform the essential functions of his or her job. According to EEOC guidance, this assessment ‘must be based on a reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge and/or best objective evidence.’”

“As mentioned in the Q&As, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a great resource for employers that are exploring accommodation options,” concludes Farrell. “JAN’s resources include an online database of accommodations.” For employers looking for the ideal accommodation, we encourage you to check our JAN, and to learn more about SHRM’s COVID-19 research, click here.

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