In the United States, we have reached the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic (the first US laboratory-confirmed case were from samples taken on January 18th, 2020).1 Unfortunately, it has become clear over the highs and lows of 2021, that COVID-19 post-vaccine rollout will not just quietly fade away. Individuals and businesses have and will continue to be impacted by changes in the virus, changes in policies, and changes in the supply chain. In this article, we take a look the current state of the COVID pandemic, how businesses are impacted, and what employers can do to support their organizations.
The first available data on vaccine booster shots and the omicron variant in the United States shows that boosters are highly effective at keeping people with omicron alive and out of the hospital.2 This is positive news for public health, but the highly contagious nature of the omicron variant means that many employers are still struggling with staffing issues.
Companies overall have struggled to keep up with employees need for sick leave either to take care of themselves and their family or to quarantine to limit further spread of the disease. The pandemic has accentuated and underscored an American labor shortage. Not only do we not have enough labor to support temporary changes in staffing due to sick leave, but we have more empty jobs and a labor force that is barely growing.
A record 4.5 million American workers quit their jobs in November3 as part of what has become known as the Great Resignation. Older workers, mothers, and immigrants have dropped out of the workforce, and at this point, do not seem ready or able to return. People will start coming back to work as they feel safer and their circumstances allow, but all signs point to this being a slow process that means labor shortages will continue to be one of our most pressing workforce issues.
The ongoing COVID outbreaks have also severely disrupted global supply chains. The world is running low on a substantial number of items including computer chips (impacting many electronic goods from phones to computers to cars), shipping containers, coffee, diapers, chicken, lumber, personal outerwear like coats, and protective equipment to name a few. Demand has exceeded capacity in production and delivery of most goods.
In addition to labor and product shortages, many businesses on the verge of implementing new return to office policies have put those plans on pause—in part because of the surge in omicron and in part for larger workforce reasons. Remote work remains extremely popular. 61% of all job seekers are interested in remote job opportunities for 2022. Of workers currently working remotely at least part of the time, 45% say they would quit if their employer required full-time in-person work in 2022.4 A recent three-month survey of 20,000 employees, reported 74% of full-time employees and 51% of part-time workers said they are planning to quit their jobs this year to seek higher pay, better benefits, and increased flexibility.5 They feel they can easily switch due to the number of job openings.
While facing these challenges, how does an employer keep their workforce happy and their business successful? Organizations must continue to be flexible and adaptable, and we encourage businesses to put their people first. A healthy workforce means a resilient and productive workforce. They are your first line of defense for responding to workflow and supply chain issues. But that means facing labor shortages and working to improve employee retention and reduce employee turnover.
Employees are motivated to leave their current job in part because of concerns over their mental health. They feel their workplace wellbeing is in jeopardy due to stress, family issues, child and elder care, anxiety, and depression. All of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Many employees assert there is a serious disconnect between how they think about their own mental health and how business leaders view the issue. 87% want their employers to care about their mental health.6 In a recent study 80% of employers said their company was more accepting of mental health challenges in the past year. However, only 59% of employees think their company has been more accepting of mental health.7 These statistics show that many employers are disengaged from their employees’ wants and needs, and have not been able to effectively address these challenges.
Employers need to reevaluate workplace benefits post-pandemic. 80% of job seekers believe that employers need to re-evaluate the benefits that they offer. In a Kaiser Family Foundation study on changes employers have made since the pandemic, only 31% increased the ways employees can tap into mental health services, such as telemedicine. A mere 16% initiated employee assistance programs or other new resources for mental health.8 In a recent survey, 67% of job seekers say that benefits are more important to them now than before the pandemic, and 54% would even consider taking a lower-paying job with a better benefits package.9
Uprise Health can help employers support employees with robust, digitally-enabled EAP and mental health services that focus on whole-person care. We understand that employees with anxiety and depression are less likely to reach out for professional help even when they need it, and our mental health solutions remove barriers to care while reducing the stigma of asking for help.
Uprise Health provides employees with workplace wellbeing mechanisms and digital mental health tools which trigger proactive contact with at-risk employees and connect them with a clinician anywhere, anytime. We also offer resources for financial, legal, child, eldercare, and a host of additional work-life challenges. Uprise Health’s insights on the causes of employee stress along with our understanding of what employees expect and need to succeed will allow employer’s actions to align with employees’ needs. Organizations who improve workplace wellbeing improve culture, drive HR initiatives, and enable drivers for change. Learn about our digitally-enabled EAP and mental health solutions.