The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the mental health of employees. Employees struggled to adjust to the multiple burdens of working from home, caring for family members and achieving work-life balance.

Data recently released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confirms that more and more discrimination charges include claims based on mental health conditions. This change is based largely on the increase in discrimination charges related to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mental health claims up nearly 50%

In fiscal year 2021, 37.2% of charges included disability-related claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of those claims, nearly 30%

man in suit sitting with hands on temples of head dealing with mental health

were based on alleged discrimination based on mental health conditions. Ten years ago, mental health claims only accounted for 20% of ADA charges.

For example, in fiscal year 2011, only 1,362 claims were based on anxiety disorder, accounting for only 5.3% of all ADA charges. But fast forward to fiscal year 2021, and anxiety claims have more than doubled — 2,639 charges were based on anxiety disorder, making up 11.6% of all ADA claims. Similarly, PTSD claims in fiscal year 2011 were only 2.3% of ADA charges, but now they account for 6.0% of charges filed in 2021.

Pandemic stress affecting employees and workplace culture

This data confirms what employers likely already knew — employees have been struggling with burnout, fatigue and other stress related to the pandemic. Employers face more than legal risk when it comes to employee mental health. All employers — no matter the industry — want to be successful, meet goals, and focus on growth or other opportunities. But businesses that ignore employee mental health concerns may find themselves facing unproductive workers, an unsatisfied workforce and a workplace culture that breeds negativity.

So what are employers to do? Getting out in front of the issue is the best way to improve your employees’ satisfaction and potentially improve their mental health.

  • Consider providing mental health days for employees to take care of themselves and get a break.
  • Make sure your benefits plans include coverage for mental health, and ensure you have a robust Employee Assistance Program that is advertised to employees.
  • Encourage employees to use their paid time off, and make sure employees feel they have support from their supervisors so they can actually unplug while on paid leave.
  • Finally, make sure to listen to your employees — they likely will give you clues if they and their peers are unhappy or suffering from mental health issues or other related stressors.

Employees spend so much time at work — whether physically in the workplace or remotely. When employees do not feel supported or valued, they will seek to take their talents elsewhere. Your employees and business as a whole will be better off by making mental health a priority.