The mental health of employees, which became a significant concern for employers during the COVID-19 pandemic, remains an issue as businesses return to normal operations, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Mental health issues often exacerbate work-related injury claims, so companies should be aware of the issue and work proactively to support workers’ mental health, said Atlanta-based Dr. L. Casey Chosewood, director of the Office of Total Occupational Health, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, at the CDC .
He was speaking at a presentation Wednesday sponsored by Travelers Cos. Inc. during Riskworld, the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.̵7;s annual conference in Atlanta.
Many workers, especially healthcare workers, suffered from stress, burnout and other mental health challenges during the pandemic, and they continue to struggle after it subsides, said Dr. Chosewood.
“One in three workers say their return to work has worsened their mental health,” he said.
The rapid changes in the workplace — for example, through the introduction of new technology — can add stress to some workers, and since the pandemic, workers are more willing to talk about mental health issues, said Dr. Chosewood.
Also, mental health issues slow recovery from physical injuries, and companies shouldn’t assume their existing wellness programs will solve the problem, he said.
“They don’t want a lunch and learn to eat healthier. You can’t overcome 10 to 12 hours of horrible working conditions with a lunch and learn how to prevent diabetes,” says Dr. Chosewood.
To reduce stress in the workplace, employers should take steps to offer more flexibility to workers and to train supervisors to be aware of mental health issues, he said.
“Recognize the workers, create a positive space, give them meaning for what they do because it affects a larger society, show them the good in the work they do, use sounder supervision, give more voice and autonomy to the workers, give them more day— flexibility today, he said.