The year 2020 brought anxiety to many workers, and even depression to some. The CDC reported that three times as many adults said they felt anxiety and four times as many adults said they felt depressed in the summer of 2020 compared to the summer of 2019.

Spring Health just released its 2021 Guide to Mental Health Benefits, an e-book to help companies apply the lessons learned in 2020.

According to a survey commissioned by Spring Health and conducted online by The Harris Poll:

  • 49% of American workers sought mental healthcare in 2020
  • 38% of those who sought care say they were driven by a desire to manage emotions related to the coronavirus pandemic
  • 43% said the mental health benefits in their employer-sponsored health plan did not meet their mental healthcare needs.

Another interesting point: although 38% sought mental healthcare in 2020 to manage emotions related to the pandemic, that wasn’t the only issue that drove workers to seek care. Other reasons include the following:

  • 32% — working from home
  • 30% — concerns about racial injustice
  • 29% — elections
  • 29% — job insecurity or job loss
  • 29% — natural disasters (wildfires, hurricanes, etc.)
  • 13% — other reasons

Employee Burnout

The percentage of U.S. employees experiencing worker burnout continues to rise. Dr. Millard Brown, SVP of Medical Affairs at Spring Health, who is a board-certified adult and child psychiatrist, believes there are many factors contributing to the rise. “I worry that we have an increasing expectation mismatch at work, home and school,” he says.

“We often feel the pressure to be tracking, executing, and optimizing more aspects of our lives than ever before.” And this pressure is not only at work, but relates to parenting, eating, exercising — just about any area you can think of. And since it’s not possible to optimize every facet of life, Brown says it will lead to exhaustion. “If we struggle to resolve these pressures successfully and find ways to relax and recharge, there’s the possibility of giving up and becoming disenchanted with life, leading to demotivation and burnout.”

Other factors, such as marriage, children, gender, and age can affect the level of burnout. “For example, a well-functioning marriage can help a person reset after a difficult day when a loving partner is present.” But if there’s tension in the marriage, Brown says resetting won’t occur. Instead, the employee exhausted from work will find it harder to be ready for the next day of work. “Therefore, when managers find an employee who appears exhausted and at risk for burnout, they should ask about non-work issues that might be impacting the employee and be ready to recommend available services.”

Broader effects of 2020 events, such as the election and COVID-19, also contribute to burnout rates. “As we face more tension, stress, trauma, and isolation, we have less ability to let go, relax and reset ourselves.” And the end result is less hope regarding the future, or the ability to impact our surroundings. “All of this leaves us with less energy to manage our exhaustion and return to a healthy baseline.”

How employees can help prevent/mitigate burnout

According to the survey, employees want their mental health benefits to be less confusing, easier to access, and more personalized:

  • 19% want an easier way to find out which therapists or psychiatrists in their network are taking new clients
  • 21% want a simpler way to determine which therapists or psychiatrists in their network specialize in the mental health concern they have
  • 19% want a virtual option for their therapy or medication management appointments
  • 19% want lower copays for therapy or medication management appointments
  • 17% want employer-funded therapy or medication management appointments (free for employees)
  • 17% want the option to quickly change psychiatrists or therapists

There are also other steps that employers can take. “Ensure employees and managers are synced with expectations of each other and that managers repeatedly ask over time about exhaustion and burnout,” Brown says. “Look for role mismatches that can cause employees to be more disengaged and demotivated, and collaborate to find joint solutions.” He also recommends re-evaluating processes to identify where exhaustion is most likely to occur, and then looking for ways to balance workloads to meet business needs in a manner that is sustainable.