Quarter of employees are ‘depressed’ a year into pandemic

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More than a quarter of employees would describe themselves as depressed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study by Gartner.

The analyst company polled more than 5,000 employees in late 2020, finding that 29% felt depressed. Almost half (49%) had participated in a workplace wellbeing programme where this was offered.

Gartner found that almost nine in 10 employers took emergency measures to offer support to staff during the pandemic, including flexible hours for caregivers, paid time off for childcare and paid time off to look after elderly relatives.

Almost two-thirds of HR leaders said they had offered a new wellbeing offering for staff, and 34% had expanded existing offerings.

However, only a quarter of organisations said they would keep these programmes going in the long term.

“The need for wellbeing support has skyrocketed since the pandemic struck, giving organisations a new mandate to offer more and better programs,” said Carolina Valencia, vice president in the Gartner HR practice.

“Organisations, more than ever, must respond to all facets of the individual, from the physical to the emotional, and address some of the new stressors that have emerged over the past year.”

She said employers should consider sustaining programmes beyond the pandemic as many employees will suffer from continued financial difficulties and lingering stress.

Gartner also recommended that organisations create more personalised programmes. Only 19% of employees said they had five or more options in terms of wellbeing offerings, while 46% thought they were sufficiently personalised.

Furthermore, only about half of employees (49%) agree their manager understands their problems and needs, Gartner found.

The firm also advised that HR should empower employees to self-assess their wellbeing and benchmark themselves so they can map out a development plan.

Valencia added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear to employers and employees that work and life cannot be treated as two separate constructs.

“If employers help support employees with all aspects of their health during turbulent times more effectively, not only do they have better lives, but they perform at a higher level. In fact, organisations that provide holistic well-being support can boost employee discretionary effort by 21%, twice as much as companies that provide only traditional (physical and financial) programs.”

Gartner’s research is echoed by another survey by YouGov on behalf of health insurance company YuLife. This found that 93% of workers felt that employers have an obligation to safeguard employees’ wellbeing, rising to 97% among women. A third of employees say they are less motivated in the workplace than before the pandemic.

YuLife CEO and founder Sammy Rubin said: “A year of widespread disruption in the wake of the pandemic has had a clear and pronounced impact on wellbeing in the workplace and on individual lifestyle habits. Employers must heed this wake-up call and strive to find solutions that respond to employees’ changing needs, ensuring that they are supported whether working from home or the office.”

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