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Mental Health at Work: The Pandemic Weight

By Bonnie Johnson,


Employees’ mental health is a concern with the stress of the pandemic. Additional safety measures and potential exposure can make just going to work scary. Even those who may work remotely have experienced sudden changes to work-life balance. surveyed ag employees about any shifts in their mental health during COVID-19; while 35% said there’s been no change, nearly 60% said there’s been a negative influence on their mental health.

One-half of respondents said their employer provided communication, education or support about mental health over the past month. This leaves half of the ag workforce looking for support during a crisis. Unfortunately,one of the most common responses from employees was, “Nothing, my employer has done nothing to address mental health.”

We asked respondents to share any unique solutions or ideas their employer has provided. Following are some examples that we’ve expanded upon:

  • EAP – Employee Assistance Programs aid employees with issues that may impact performance: Employers are communicating these benefits and encouraging use. According to earlier research, EAPs were one of the most underutilized and misunderstood benefits. It’s time for all employers to reiterate the availability of these programs, and for employees to ask. If an employer doesn’t have an EAP, there are hotlines, websites, and virtual counseling as alternatives.*
  • Create healthy working procedures: Lessen the stress levels by providing appropriate pandemic safety measures, such as masks, social distance, flex schedules, work from home, alternating schedules, and encouraging employees to take time off without penalties.The fear of just getting sick, and how they’ll manage time-off and potential loss of income impacts mental health and work.
  • Communicate: Is your organization ready and able to make it through the challenge? Share plans with your employees. The majority (65%) of ag employers reported that they would NOT need to implement employment management strategies (such as furloughs, lay-offs, etc.) at all during the pandemic. Thirty-five percent of organizations have already begun working on a workforce re-entry plan- actions the business will take once the pandemic restrictions are lifted and workers can return to business as usual.
  • Be supportive: One organizations’ leaders reach out to employees once per week for a ‘how’s your life” check-in, beyond work. Supervisors reiterate their availability to discuss concerns with each employee. Encourage employees to have grace for coworkers during a time of crisis. Suggest stress-breaking activities, like getting outside, playing games, taking walks, or video-chatting with family and friends.

More COVID-19 Mental Health Resources:

CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019: Stress and Coping

The Mayo Clinic: COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

WebMD: 5 Ways to Guard Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Government of Canada: COVID-19 and Mental Health @ Work COVID-19 Information & Resources for USA Ag COVID-19 Information & Resources for Canadian Ag

*Telemedicine: Many health insurance providers and local clinics offer options for virtual healthcare from the privacy of your own home. Especially during the pandemic, this is the preferred method of patient care to avoid exposure.

Healthcare professionals may provide consultations for non-emergency medical conditions, including mental health,through Internet virtual visits using mobile apps, webcams, and other video technology.