It’s no secret that business owners are still struggling with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Delivery disruptions, material shortages, and a scarcity of workers have been at the forefront of the news for well over a year. It’s only recently that the media has begun shining a light on the effects the pandemic has had on EHS leaders and the workforces they manage.
Prior to COVID, EHS departments were fairly limited to instilling a safe work environment, ensuring companywide EHS compliance, and addressing workplace illnesses and injuries.
But when the pandemic hit, EHS leaders had to broaden their roles. They scrambled to implement new safety protocols that included masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing stations, and other initiatives. They increased EHS communications, implemented travel restrictions and generated vaccination policies. Most EHS leaders did everything humanly possible to keep workers from becoming infected and spreading the virus, and the workforce took notice.
As a result, workers’ perceptions of EHS managers have changed. They no longer see them simply as EHS compliance enforcers. They now view them as benefactors of complete employee health and well-being, and this elevated status has created a new challenge for EHS leaders.
In its 2021 survey, EHSToday learned that an increasing number of employees are turning to their companies’ EHS departments for help with their mental health and well-being, which they hadn’t done prior to the pandemic. Rather than shirking the added responsibility, EHS managers are stepping up. According to the survey, 58% of EHS leaders said improving mental health and worker wellness will be a high priority for 2022 and 2023.
Business owners say they plan to place a higher priority on EHS budgets, too, and they expect to modify corporate structures to ensure EHS is more closely aligned with Human Resources. They anticipate that the two departments will share a new, holistic approach toward managing employees’ overall health and mental well-being.
According to the 2021 Business Group on Health / Fidelity Investments Employer-Sponsored Health and Well-being Survey, which interviewed leaders from 166 large global companies, employer programs designed to support employees’ mental health and emotional well-being will also increase significantly throughout 2022. Programs expected to grow the most since 2020 include sleep improvement programs (35% increase), digital cognitive behavioral therapy (37% increase) and happiness programs (33% increase).
According to the survey’s authors, “Mental health and emotional well-being is the leading way global employers are addressing employee well-being, more so than physical health, which is historically the most common type of program. This finding further accentuates the international trend of emotional health playing a critical role in an employee’s state of well-being.”
This could very well be the rainbow that follows the COVID storm, and it’s likely to remain with us well into the future. Not sure how to mange this new component of your business? Contact us to learn more.