With the FEI Employee Assistance Program (EAP), there are benefits that managers and their employees can use to help with the many challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Our program offers counseling, wellness, legal aid, work-life balance and financial support. It also includes in-the-moment support counseling for mental health. Together, these benefits help enhance your employees’ physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Our in-the-moment support is available 24/7. If an employee has called our support line and is experiencing distress, they will be matched up with a mental health professional and receive immediate supportive counseling, which concentrates on in-the-moment help and practical solutions. Even if your employees are currently working from home, they can still use in-the-moment support for anxiety, stress or fear related to our current challenges.

How Can COVID-19 Stress Affect Your Employees

While many people focus on the physical dangers of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides tips for coping with the stress of living during a pandemic. It is only natural that people might feel fear, stress and anxiety during this time. If your employees have contact with customers or co-workers during a typical workday, they may be afraid of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to their families.

At one school district in Washington, two janitors spent each day living in fear of getting sick after a teenager tested positive for COVID-19. Both were over the age of 60, and one had a kidney transplant, which meant he had a higher risk of developing complications from the virus.

They watched the news as the virus spread, but their schools claimed the sick children were just coming down with the flu. No one offered them face masks or time off work. Eventually, the local government closed the schools. After spending weeks having daily panic attacks and constant anxiety, they were finally relieved to stay home.

The school district missed an opportunity to help their employees through mental wellness programs. They also failed to protect their physical safety. Your workplace can learn from their mistakes.

Everyone responds to stressful situations in different ways. While some people follow stay-at-home orders, others have different psychological responses. In some cases, an individual will deliberately show how unafraid they are by seeking human contact and not wearing a face mask. Since everyone has different coping mechanisms, it is important to help your employees process their fears and deal with their anxieties in a safe and healthy manner.

During this outbreak, your employees may experience a range of fears and related concerns, including:

  • Changes in sleep patterns or trouble sleeping
  • Worries about their health and their family members’ health
  • Increased use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • Problems concentrating
  • Worsening of mental illnesses or chronic health problems
  • Changes in eating patterns

Older people, children, people with autoimmune disorders and first responders may have a stronger reaction to stress during this crisis. In addition, those who already have mental health disorders like substance abuse, depression or anxiety may struggle to handle the mental challenges of working during a pandemic. How people respond to the crisis depends on their overall health, background and community support.

How can employers help their workers during the COVID-19 crisis?

In a recent study, nearly 7 out of 10 employees said that the COVID-19 pandemic was the most stressful period of their entire career. This is not surprising because other studies have shown an increase in new prescriptions for treating insomnia, anxiety and depression. In the first four to six weeks after the crisis began in the United States, 88 percent of all workers reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress.

Employers worry about their continuity planning and physical safety measures. But unless they also address their employees’ mental health, employers are likely to see reduced employee productivity, weaker morale and higher absenteeism and turnover rates.

We cannot stop the global pandemic, but we can change how we react to it. By using in-the-moment support and other wellness programs that your company may offer, you can help your employees deal with stress in a healthier way. At FEI, we can help you and your team navigate this crisis and achieve better mental health. Please reach out to your account manager or EAP Services Center for support.