The Role Of The Employer And How It Impacts Employee Mental Health

Employers are currently focused on supporting a predominantly at-home workforce that’s grappling with challenges unlike any we’ve experienced before. Putting mental health at the forefront of the conversation is an important step organizations can take to ensure that employees have the support and resources they need now and for the future. This very topic is covered in Cheril Clarke’s most recent blog post, “Employers Can Play a Positive Role in Employee Mental Health.” She is the founder of and is an expert on business communication. Cheril says, “Employers can help in many ways, especially as it relates to communication.” She has three ways that employers can help.

  1. Communicate Often 
  • Let employees know they are valued.
  • Provide frequent updates on the state of the company.
  • Share how to access telehealth or remote nurse line counseling.
  • Discuss coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment available through your healthcare plans or through public programs. You may have employees who are not on your plan, so include information about accessing public COVID-19 testing and treatment.
  1. Educate Employees
  • Provide up to date and accurate information on the spread of COVID-19 by using trusted, fact-based, non-partisan resources.
  • Offer advice on not stockpiling medication, if possible and safe medication habits if you do take medications and have a large quantity in-house.
  • Post information on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 from reliable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Provide links to national support resources such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the CDC.
  • Explain coverage for seeking routine care, chronic illness and urgent care.
  1. Provide Support
  • Telehealth and crisis counseling by phone, Zoom, FaceTime or text.
  • Online and local behavioral health support group information.
  • Connections and support for people with mental health or substance use disorders.
  • Resources for financial counseling and accessing financial aid.
  • Resources for food insecure homes.
  • Resources for childcare, nursing care, etc. 
  • Provide a confidential help line or email address where employees can raise concerns and ask for help anonymously. Be ready to help or link to local or national resources on common employee concerns, such as applying for unemployment, food insecurity, childcare, etc. 
  • Ensure return-to-work policies, typically used following an illness, are flexible.


The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will affect employees well beyond the immediacy of the initial crisis. Employers have a unique ability and responsibility to manage benefit providers, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and health insurance plans to ensure workers have access to the help and support they need. Having workers know their employers are here to support them through these difficult times can make a world of difference for their mental and physical health. Companies’ Human Resources teams and supervisors can help make this difference a reality. 

In these stressful times, it is not enough to post benefit information on a company website. People are overwhelmed by news about the virus, their health risk, their jobs and the economy. That is why employers and their benefit providers should reinforce messaging several times, when appropriate, about how to get help for the stress workers are feeling. Employers need to reinforce what their benefits providers are saying, support the importance of getting help when needed, and, when relevant, create multi-lingual resources. Working with benefits providers to assure employees can access remote services and adjusting internal policies can minimize the impacts on your workplace and support your workers through stressful situations

Taking care of ourselves and each other, including our families, friends, and coworkers, should be the first order of business right now. As employers look to both near-term and long-term solutions to support their workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak, mental health care should remain a focal point. Employers who are proactive, considerate, and flexible will be better positioned to weather this storm and to emerge post-pandemic with a resilient workforce.

Drew Neisser