Ever since my babies were born, I've been a working mom. I've had multiple businesses, survived the 2008-2009 recession, and more—but these past couple of years have been some of the hardest.
Between working remotely, having kids at home, social isolation, economic concerns, and pandemic fears, it's no wonder that 48% of parents are experiencing increased stress levels since COVID began.
Here's what businesses need to know about supporting families during the mental health crisis.
The Effects of Stress for Parents
Parents are incredibly stressed caring for the needs of their families and themselves. Many stressful events are happening, from war to the continuing pandemic to returning to in-person school and work. Here are some of the impacts of stress on parents.
Stress is hard on the immune system, making parents susceptible to colds and other sicknesses. 75-90% of all doctor visits are for "stress-related ailments and complaints," according to WebMD.
It can be challenging to use healthy coping skills when we are stressed. Many people will go to substances, overeating, or constantly distracting themselves with technology to cope with negative emotions. This only worsens stress in the long run.
Mindfulness is one of my favorite stress-management tools. It is a great way to train yourself to self-soothe and be in the moment instead of reaching for those harmful coping mechanisms.
Poor Physical Health
Stress deeply affects our bodies. It can lead to chronic pain and sleep disturbances. One way we help address this symptom of stress is massage.
A Decline in Mental Health
Difficulty focusing, lack of motivation, depression, and anxiety stem from stress.
24% of parents have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder since COVID began, and many more are dealing with increased stress.
I used to be against medication. Now that my daughter and I have both experienced depression and been medicated for it, I have realized that there is no need to feel shame for getting help.
Medication and therapy help us heal so we can live fuller lives! Related: Mental Health vs Mental Illness: What’s the Difference?
Why Employers Should Care
The cost of mental health care is massive. Among healthcare, mental health has the highest economic cost in the United States—even more than cardiovascular disease. Employees that are suffering from a mental illness lose about 7 work weeks per year in productivity.
Parents have to deal with all the effects of stress plus the additional stressor of taking care of children who may also be struggling.
Due to mental health care barriers like the mental health stigma, long wait times to see a therapist, inconvenience, and lack of time, 50% of people don't receive the mental health care they need.
Employers are in a great position to get rid of these barriers through:
- Mental health education
- Providing a mental health program and/or EAP
My own stigma around medication to address mental health issues prevented me from getting the help I needed for a long time. Employers can help break down barriers like these so employees can be happier and more productive!
The more we share our stories, the better. When we talk about our struggles, more people will know it's okay not to be okay and get help!
How else can employers help parents?
Here are some more specific ways your company can support your working parents.
1. Offer Flexible Work Options
Employees expect—and need—more flexibility at work. Flexible work can look like any of the following:
- Remote work
- Flexible working hours
- Less work travel and commuting
- Reduced work hours or workload
- Mental health and wellness days
- More PTO
- Mental health hours
Companies are starting to offer mental health days and hours to allow employees to take time for their mental health. One company we work with has mental health hours every Wednesday morning from 9 am to noon. This also helps set the tone for putting mental health first.
2. Have an Open Mental Health Dialogue
Hold mental health workshops with a licensed counselor, train managers on how to talk about mental health at work and get leadership to start the mental health conversation by sharing their personal experiences are great ways to start talking about mental health at work.
Make sure to emphasize that talking about mental health with an EAP or mental health program is confidential. Getting help will be anonymous and won't impact how they are evaluated.
3. Provide Mental Health Resources
Mental health programs are a great option for employers.
They typically provide employee counseling, life coaching, and other wellness resources for employees.
The best EAP providers can set therapy appointments for employees in less than 48 hours and provide a holistic approach to mental health care. Here are some things to look for in an EAP or mental health program, in addition to therapy and life coaching:
- Guided meditation and mindfulness resources
- Fitness classes and personal training
- Yoga classes
- Financial coaching
- Nutrition coaching
Having a mental health program can help further fuel the mental health conversation at your company.
Many EAPs and mental health programs also offer therapy for children and spouses!
You could also consider providing employees with a list of mental health hotlines and self-care ideas.
4. Build a Community
Once you implement the three points above, you are well on your way to creating a stronger community at your company. Especially since COVID started, we are craving community more than ever. Employees have gotten less involved in organizations outside of work, and many parents are lonely and need emotional support.
Your company can provide the community employees need.
Managers and employees can become a support system.
Talking about mental health helps up heal and grow closer to each other.
Here are some more ideas on how to build a deeper community at work:
- Create a forum or support group for parents at your company
- Have a "bring your kid to work" day
- Have company parties and online events with kids involved
- Have a happy hour without kids
If you're looking to find and implement an EAP for your team, check out these articles:
- How Much Do EAP Programs Cost?
- The Step-by-Step Guide to Increase EAP Utilization
- Your Guide to the EAP Implementation and Search Process
--- This blog post was inspired by a workshop Haeli Harris, Nivati's Lead Clinician, and I gave. If you'd like to learn more about the topics I touched on in this post, you can watch the entire webcast here:
By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.