APA Offers Advice on Coping with Stress and Mental Health When Considering a Return to the Workplace

Washington, D.C., August 5, 2021 — Many employees are once again facing significant change and uncertainty as they consider returning to the workplace after more than a year. The Center for Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation, has developed a new resource to help employers understand employees’ stresses and concerns and provide the best support possible to those returning to the workplace.

“Everyone’s situation and experience will be different, but for those of us who spent the last 16 months at home, we’re not just going back to ‘normal,’” said APA President Vivian Pender, M.D. “We’ll all be dealing with new logistical and emotional challenges, and different people will have different burdens.”

Returning employees will likely be coping with a variety of logistical decisions and challenges as well as a host of stresses and uncertainties impacting emotional health and well-being, including ongoing health risks like COVID-19 variants, commuting, caregiving responsibilities and establishing new routines. Some individuals will be dealing with grief from losses of family or friends or from racial trauma.

“The APA Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health’s new guide is essential reading for managers who are seeking actionable steps to support employees returning to the workplace,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., and chair of the APA Foundation. “Everyone is dealing with new life circumstances, and some of it will involve trauma, and not all will be evident. It’s important that we check in on and take care of each other.”

The Center for Workplace Mental Health offers practical and effective tips for supporting employees manage the uncertainty and unpredictability of a transition back to the workplace. Among the key recommendations for employers:

  • Understand concerns – Consider conducting a survey or hosting a town hall discussion to better understand how this historic time has impacted employees and their concerns related to returning.
  • Communicate often and be transparent – Keep employees informed about plans and changes in policies and procedures and encourage open discussion about experiences and concerns with transitioning back.
  • Make employee mental health a visible priority – Make sure employees are aware of the mental health services and resources available to them and create an environment where people are comfortable talking about mental health and accessing services when needed.
  • Stay flexible – Anticipate the need to be flexible as people transition to new schedules, new commutes and new routines.
  • Promote resiliency – Offer opportunities for mindfulness practices, create a healthy work environment prioritizing reasonable work hour limits and promoting physical health.

See the full resource: Returning to the Workplace Supporting Employees Through the Transition

The Center for Workplace Mental Health also offers an e-learning training program for managers and supervisors on the impact of mental health on employees and the organization. The Notice. Talk. Act.® At Work program trains managers to:

    • NOTICE what may be signs of potential mental health concerns.
    • Know how to TALK with a person they may be concerned about.
    • Be better equipped to ACT by connecting a person with services and supports.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,400 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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