After two years of pandemic lockdowns and an unexpected war breaking out in Ukraine, the global economy has taken a severe hit. Here in the United States, inflation is at the highest it’s been in 40 years and all indicators show that we could be heading into a recession.
In this article, we’ll look at how a recession can impact employee mental health and what public sector employers can do to support their employees during a stressful period like a recession.
The 2008 Great Recession lasted 18 months. A mere 13 years later, we face another potential recession.
Based on research by the Association for Psychological Science, not only did the 2008 recession see an increase in depression, anxiety and problematic drug use, but the effects lasted for several years after the recession ended.
Interestingly, it wasn’t only workers who lost jobs that were affected. Those who survived layoffs had to cope with increased workloads and a pervading sense of job insecurity. Some even suffered from survivor’s guilt.
In 2022, many public sector workers are still recovering from pandemic-related stress and now face the added stress of a possible recession. What can public sector organizations do to manage employee mental health wellness during a recession?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. These adults don’t only suffer mental health problems at home: they also have to cope with them while at work.
Many employees do not divulge their conditions because of the negative stigma around mental health illnesses. But the implications of mental health problems are felt in the workplace in the form of:
That’s why it’s important for employers to understand how mental health impacts the workplace and put strategies in place to support struggling employees.
Our public sector employees have taken a mental battering during the COVID-19 pandemic and will face further pressure should a recession hit. What strategies can you implement to support your employees during a recession?
Mental health is a sensitive and often misunderstood subject. Many people have the wrong impression of mental health, and some dismiss it entirely. To change perceptions, you need to educate employees about mental health.
A survey by Mind Share Partners found that 86% of employees said that they’d like their organization’s culture to support mental health more. They would like employers to create an empathetic culture around mental health conditions. There are three simple ways to do this:
Stress is a major contributing factor to both physical and mental health diseases. Employers are seeing the value in trying to mitigate the damaging effects of stress by implementing workplace stress management programs.
These can include:
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are designed to assist employees who are struggling with personal problems that may be affecting their work. This could include problems with addiction, family difficulties, legal or financial matters and traumatic experiences. It should also include mental health assistance. Here are a few ways you could do that:
A recession is a stressful time for both employers and employees. Employers may have to make the difficult decision to cut jobs while employees fear losing their job. As a result, anxiety may be high on both sides.
It’s important to keep the lines of communication open and be transparent about the organization's plans. Allow employees to express their feelings and always respond to their fears in a compassionate and respectful manner.
Recessions don’t just affect people’s finances; they also affect people’s health and mental wellness. And it’s not just the unemployed who suffer. Those who are fortunate to keep their jobs also feel the strain. It’s important to acknowledge this and support your employees, especially when the stress of a recession is impacting their mental health.
CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country. Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients. We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.