One Year Later: Follow Up to 2020 Research Reveals More Employers Prioritizing Employee Mental Health

The majority of employees (71%) feel employers are genuinely concerned with their mental health

More employees feel empowered (78%) to let someone at their company know if they aren’t feeling physically or mentally well

New survey findings share that 78% of American employees feel empowered to let someone at their company know when they aren’t feeling physically or mentally well, up from 40% in 2020. These findings are from a U.S. employee wellness survey commissioned by TELUS International, a leading global customer experience and digital solutions provider.

Today’s survey results, compared to those reported in October 2020, indicate that employers have changed their approach toward supporting mental health in the workplace. The research suggests companies have heeded employees’ calls and are better supporting mental health needs, as fewer employees today say they would quit their job for another that better prioritized its employees’ mental health (57% in 2021 vs. 80% in 2020).

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“In this age of technology and social connection we are all experiencing the significant impact of the global pandemic in real time around the clock, as well as on a sustained basis as we collectively navigate this fourth wave. These factors have served to amplify the stressors and emotional tolls the pandemic has brought as well as the disruptions to our routines and day-to-day experiences, including how and where we work,” said Marilyn Tyfting, chief corporate officer of TELUS International. “The result has been a much needed shift in the past year from a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ attitude to a ‘do ask, do tell and let’s talk’ mindset that has transformed the way society perceives and discusses mental health, both more generally and in the context of the workplace. Employees need, and are increasingly asking for, resources to help them cope with mental health challenges, and companies are responding by enhancing the breadth and scope of programs and services they provide, as well as making them more accessible.”

Survey reveals employee insights on work-life flexibility

The majority of employees continue to believe it is important (88% in 2021, 97% in 2020) that a company prioritizes its employees’ mental health, and survey results indicate that employees believe companies are doing more to meet their mental health needs. The majority of respondents (86%) shared that having more flexibility in their working hours would positively impact their mental health, and when asked if their employer is allowing enough flexibility in their schedules to maintain physical and mental health, 67% answered yes (vs. 55% in 2020).

The survey also revealed a rising trend in dedicated mental health days to combat pandemic burnout, with 68% of survey respondents saying their employer has provided extra paid time off since working from home. The results indicate that companies are acknowledging the need to prioritize mental health by offering a reprieve from the everyday challenges of working during the pandemic. Additionally, only 25% of respondents said they had not taken a mental health day (compared to 53% in 2020).

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Return to office sentiment revealed

Being back in the office or the idea of returning to the office is increasing stress for 53% of workers who cited top reasons as commute time (70%), potential COVID-19 transmission (68%) and that they feel safer working from home (52%).

When asked how employers could help ease a return to the office, employees noted the top three things an employer can do to relieve stress.

  • Offer flexible work schedules (57%)
  • Provide enhanced office cleaning / implement physical distancing protocols (57%)
  • Issue a vaccine or testing mandate (49%)

When asked about the most helpful mental health and wellness resource that their employer provides or could provide, employees cited access to a therapist, psychologist or counseling (39%); virtual workshops about health and wellness, recommendations in a newsletter, and yoga and meditation classes (29%); mental health or personal days off (19%); and a self-directed health and wellness spending allowance (10%). Write-in responses for ‘other’ (3%) included third-party meditation apps, ‘all of the above’ and ‘going outside’.

“Employers need to understand that their employees today are not the same people who left their offices in March 2020, and that now is not the time to pump the brakes on mental health initiatives. Prioritizing employee health, safety and well-being will continue to be of paramount importance not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it leads to improved company performance. In today’s challenging labor market, offering remote work and flexible schedules can be an effective strategy for employers to rise above the competition in accessing top talent,” added Tyfting. “Ensuring the wellbeing of our global workforce that has grown to more than 56,000 team members has always been a critical element of TELUS International’s caring culture, and, from Day One, that has included leveraging our digital solutions and cloud-based IT infrastructure to provide our team members with numerous channels to access our mental health resources when and where they need them. Our leaders around the world also regularly seek their teams’ feedback and suggestions on how we can do better, and model healthy behaviors such as communicating openly about their own personal challenges during this time so that team members feel empowered to share with us when they need support.”

In addition to providing top global brands with leading digital customer experience services and solutions, TELUS International offers several programs, tools and technology platforms to help companies drive significant value in their operations, and deliver benefits to their employees. Leveraging its global experience across hundreds of clients and multiple industries, the company provides Workforce Management and Optimization Solutions, Learning Excellence Solutions and Talent Acquisition Solutions.

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