Returns to the office raise mental health concerns

“I’ve had many more employees contact me because of their anxiety, often saying they couldn’t determine why,” Ms. Theobald said. “I got phone calls from managers saying, ‘That’s what I did, and I hope I handled it properly. “”

Some companies are trying to directly address mental health issues that their staff may be facing. Arrivia, a travel company, said usage of its “employee assistance” program, which provides free therapy, had increased tenfold since the pandemic began. The company also surveyed workers about their return-to-office needs and drafted a plan that prioritizes flexibility, allowing many people to work from home if they prefer.

Real, a mental health app that offers programs on topics like relationships and body positivity, plans to pilot a four-day work week, running next week through June, to give employees more time to rest and focus on their family. The idea came from Real founder Ariela Safira, who admitted after the December break that she was experiencing a feeling of numbness fueled by overwork.

Like Ms. Safira, many mental health professionals find this time as difficult as the clients they serve. April Koh, founder of Spring Health, a mental health start-up that provides employees with access to therapy and other services, recently realized she hadn’t fully managed her own pain after being targeted with a racial slur on a New York street. When her team planned a healing circle to discuss anti-Asian violence, which has increased during the pandemic, Ms Koh caught herself as she publicly struggled with questions about her personal history.

“I didn’t expect to be so emotional,” she said. “There’s kind of a shared mentality, to some degree, among Asian Americans about keeping your head down and staying invisible. It was powerful for me to be so vulnerable.

She worries that many companies, which had never made efforts to look after the mental health of their staff, are still not being proactive in helping people take care of themselves, especially with insurance plans often offer paltry mental health coverage. The average expect seeing a provider was taking over 20 days nationwide even before the pandemic.

“Some companies take the posture where they say, ‘We are resilient.’ We are all about business. That’s what we’re going to focus on,” Ms. Koh said. “That’s just not the way to solve problems.”

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