Companies are hiring behavioral health professionals to help staff who have been working from home, transition back to the office.
Ben Michaelis is a clinical psychologist brought to workplaces to provide on-site counseling and coaching services. Demand for his services accelerated during the pandemic and interest remains high, particularly from technology companies and financial service firms, he said.
“A lot of the mental health challenges that we had been dealing with mostly under the surface had been exposed during Covid, and now we’re really dealing with them full on,” Michaelis said.
Whenever he can provide individual services off-site though he prefers to do so.
“If you are being bullied at work, or having challenges at work, the idea of opening yourself up to someone in that same physical space can be really challenging, and even triggering,” he said.
Companies are focusing more on other kinds of counseling and coaching services, mainly those to help stem RTO anxiety and trouble communicating and building relationships, he said. A major contributor to one’s health and well-being is a person’s relationships, and more companies are taking notice.
The pandemic forced employers to pay greater attention to their employees’ mental health and well-being as burnout and feelings of anxiety and helplessness weighed heavy for many.
Michaelis’ firm, a brand design firm called the group.IO, offers learning development programs “for sort of teaching people how to manage one another,” he said. “People tend to leave companies because of their relationships.”
After working remotely for the past few years, many are anxious and struggling to socialize and foster relationships again, especially in professional settings.
A recent survey from ResumeBuilder.com found employees returning to offices are struggling with making workplace conversations and even knowing how to make eye contact.
Almost half of the survey’s more than 1,500 respondents who hold executive or management titles at companies with 11 or more employees said they’re currently offering etiquette classes, and another 18% said they plan to roll out training programs by next year.
“What’s really going on, frankly, is improving the dynamics between the people that work there,” he said.
While bringing therapists into the workplace is still somewhat novel, employers overall have boosted benefits for employees seeking mental health services and looking to better their well-being over the past few years.
Employers have expanded health coverage for mental health services over the past few years and leaned on virtual counseling as a way to lower costs and boost access, according to data from the Business Group on Health.
“Companies who really look at access [to mental health professionals] are doing the right thing, because access is the hardest thing for people in this country,” Morra Aarons-Mele, author of “the Anxious Achiever” and expert in workplace mental health issues.
“There aren’t enough professionals, it’s expensive, there isn’t enough time in the day, and anything companies can do to lower those barriers is really powerful,” she said.
Making those services more readily available also helps destigmatize seeking help, she said.