According to Total Brain: Employees’ Ability to Focus Attention and Complete Tasks Down 31%

Chronic State of Anxiety and Stress Negatively Impacting Workers’ Cognitive Performance

Americans have been living in a highly-prolonged state of unpredictability amid COVID-19. The consequence of this chronic stress, anxiety and depressive mood is the declining cognitive performance of the nation’s workers. According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, sustained attention, the driver of task completion, is down 31% in August when compared to February pre-pandemic. Planning, the capacity to make decisions and drive strategy, is down 15% since February.

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Additional findings from Total Brain’s clinically-validated brain assessments reveal millennials, those who in the past have been shown to be among the most emotionally vulnerable groups in the COVID-19 era, are now among those showing the greatest signs of cognitive decline. According to Index findings, working Americans ages 20-39 are experiencing a:

39% decline in sustained attention
30% decline in planning

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, One Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute.

“Physically, our body reacts to stress by creating a hormone called cortisol.  Under chronic stress, high levels of cortisol for long periods of time derail key brain, heart and digestive system functions,” explained Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain. “Mentally, stress contracts our mind and reduces the cognitive flexibility that is necessary to put things in perspective, create and collaborate.  Today, the Mental Health Index is demonstrating this at scale.”

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“Six months into the pandemic, it is clear that our nation’s workers are experiencing mental and emotional exhaustion,” said Colleen McHugh, President, Health Care Policy Roundtable, Executive Vice President, American Health Policy Institute and Strategic Advisor for HR Policy Association. “Although employee mental wellness is of paramount concern to HR Policy member companies, in a recent membership survey, fewer than half (41%) of responding companies reported having measures in place to check the stress and resilience levels of their employees.  We are working with these large employers to implement new ways they can care for their employees during these uncertain times and beyond.”

Garen Staglin, Chairman of One Mind at Work, commented,  “As workers’ continue to grapple with the uncertainty related to the pandemic and other current events, employers must prioritize the wellbeing of their employees by taking seriously the impact of chronic stress. Now is the time for employers to implement programs and support systems to combat the stigma and discrimination that often comes with mental health conditions.”

“The cumulative impact of stressors as a result of COVID-19 is starting to take a serious toll on the effectiveness of the American worker,” said Michael Thompson, President, and CEO, National Alliance. “Companies need to double down on efforts to connect with and support their employees.”

Methodology: The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is NOT a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries, and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from February 3 to August 30, 2020.

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