Employees’ mental health should be prioritized by businesses, CEO says

Employees' mental health should be prioritized by businesses, CEO says
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Employees’ mental health should be prioritized by businesses during pandemic, according to a CEO.

Alain Dehaze, CEO of staffing group Adecco, said that soaring coronavirus infection rates and the wave of lockdowns across Europe must compel managers to pay attention to their employees’ mental health.

“Especially with … the second wave of lockdowns coming in, we need more emotionally intelligent leaders, because we see that many people are suffering,” Dehaze told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday.

Countries including the UK, Austria, the Netherlands, France, and Germany are currently in lockdown or have prolonged restrictions, with some expected to remain in effect beyond the end of the month. Lockdowns were initially imposed last year when the coronavirus pandemic affected the region in early 2020 and have been resumed as Covid infection rates have increased during fall and winter.

Dehaze reported that an Adecco-commissioned survey of 8,000 office-based staff in eight countries suggested worsening employees’ mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We have seen in our survey that 28% of employees … say their mental health got worse during the pandemic, and that only one in 10 managers exceeded employees’ expectations in supporting them. This soft skill will be extremely important to make sure that in this new world, managers and leaders are taking care of their people in the right way,” he said.

According to Adecco, permanent, white-collar jobs may dwindle this year, such as payroll workers, with more of a focus on non-permanent roles.

“Employers have the challenge to have the right talent at the right time … but unfortunately, for some of them, [the pandemic] means they will have to lay off people and then it will be very important that government but also employers and individuals are investing in reskilling and upskilling themselves to remain competitive,” Dehaze said.

Workers prefer to spend around half of their working time in the office and half at home once restrictions are no longer in effect, Adecco’s survey says.

“Human interactions are still valued. And these figures of 50-50 really transcends geography, generation, parental status. So, it’s really a kind of new universal ideal,” Dehaze said.

“Hybrid work is here to stay … it creates (a) more inclusive workplace, especially for people with disabilities, or working parents,” he added.

Adecco’s revenue fell by 28% in the second quarter of 2020 and it dropped 15% in its third quarter. However, Dehaze said he sees its revenue improving as lockdowns become less restrictive. “Governments have learned from this first lockdown not to close everything and keep the economy going and protect the labor employment by doing ‘intelligent’ lockdown(s),” he noted.

Employees’ mental health worldwide

A YouGov survey published in December 2020 suggested that suffering from mental health problems including depression and anxiety among workers vary according to the country of residence.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, explains that mental health issues have become serious during the pandemic as employees have had to face extra challenges. She calls on employers especially with workers abroad, to pay attention to the additional burden on those who are working overseas and to make sure they run a wellbeing program to address mental health problems.

“The next step is to offer support, and to communicate widely that it is available. Extending benefits to include mental as well as physical health can be a huge benefit for employee and employer alike,” Dennis added.

The YouGov survey shows that people in Denmark, Hong Kong, and Singapore are least likely to acknowledge that they are facing mental health problems. All three countries surveyed at 17 percent while people living in Australia, Indonesia, and the US are most likely to admit their mental health issues, 35 percent, 34 percent, and 33 percent respectively.

“It is all about communication. Companies must communicate the benefits and support they are offering. It’s vital that employees know how to access any help, and that they’re encouraged to do so,” Dennis said.

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