Elevated mental health risks due to COVID-19

Mental illness was a recognised risk before the COVID-19 outbreak and this has now escalated due to the impact of isolation, economic strain and increasing uncertainty in many areas of life.


There has never been a more important time to protect the health of your employees.

To limit the impact of mental illness on employees, a “prevention” based approach is enormously preferable to reactive interventions. The importance of this is elevated when there is less visibility of employee wellbeing due to work from home (WFH) arrangements. Employees are disconnected from the more frequent, face to face experiences they would have with their peers and managers if they were working in an office environment thus reducing the opportunity to observe the physical and mental wellbeing of employees.


To do so, it’s imperative to understand your employee base:

Let’s look specifically at group B: 30%. It is estimated that 30% of your workforce will be feeling vulnerable right now. We know that mental health was a big risk for all organisations before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now, due to factors such as forced isolation and lack of social connection opportunities, economic uncertainty/financial pressures, family harmony/dispute risks, changes to routine etc – the risk to employee mental health is bigger than ever. This risk is going to escalate.

The individuals within this group may have been functioning members of your workforce with undiagnosed mental illness, or on the border of experiencing poor mental health. They may have been managing day-to-day, but suffering in silence.

This crisis could be the stress event that pushes them further into non-functioning or not functioning well. The critical question is – “Is your workforce physically and mentally resilient enough to deal with COVID-19 and still deliver on business outcomes?” More specifically, is group B resilient enough or will they ride a slippery slope towards group C who have a diagnosed mental health condition.

There is a lot within their control that can help protect their mental health, but education and awareness around these protective factors is crucial, in addition to being given the compelling reasons as to why they should make any lifestyle changes.


At Health by Design, we recognise that exercise, sleep, connectedness, drink choices and nutrition can have either a positive or negative impact on our health – depending on what choices we’re making with regard to each of these factors. That’s why we have programs and services, including our online webinars, that discuss each of these mental fitness strategies in more detail. This helps to empower your staff to make the right choices for those factors that ARE within their control, rather than focusing too much on those not in their control. In a time of such uncertainty, it certainly makes sense to focus on the “within my control”, and it pays to share this message with your staff to ensure a resilient, happy, productive workforce.

If you need help with employee health & wellness services or programs – regardless of whether your workforce is starting to return to work, has been at work the whole time or are still working remotely – get in touch. We can help, no matter what the logistical challenges may be.