COVID-19: New Mental Health Needs of Essential Workers

Last Updated on August 12, 2020

Essential Workers Are Feeling the Pandemic in a Big Way

Grocery store and healthcare workers have met unusual demands and challenges during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Essential workers have worked hard during this time to meet the needs of as many people as possible, working additional hours and dealing with consumers so they can be safe and have the services or products they need to survive.

Grocery workers, for example, have felt a lot of stress and may have increased mental health needs. It’s important that we recognize and respond to this. According to experts, the psychological toll of working in public spaces such as a grocery store during the pandemic has been and continues to be significant.

Why is a Pandemic so Stressful?

We know that COVID-19 has been very stressful for many people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and the thought of what could happen is overwhelming. This causes strong emotions in both adults and children. Pair this with the network media frenzy that is taking place, and we have a recipe for anxiety that is hard to match.

Public health actions, dictated by the WHO and CDC, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely, which can actually increase stress and anxiety. This can happen to otherwise mentally healthy individuals, so it is no wonder why those who already have these issues are even more stressed. However, based on strong evidence, we know that these public health actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Employers Can Provide Resources to their Staff

The employer has a responsibility to provide resources geared towards the well-being of the entire staff. It is also important that discrimination laws are kept in mind as well. The Human Resources department in any business can help provide resources or accommodations to help employees address feelings of stress and anxiety. HR can also stay abreast of changes in compliance issues due to COVID-19.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) existing pandemic publication, Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the ADA, can also help employers navigate workplace issues related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Keep in mind that employers are subject to the ADA if they have 15 or more employees. Smaller employers may be subject to similar rules under applicable state or local laws.

What if an employee has a pre-existing mental condition? Although many people feel significant stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees with certain preexisting mental health conditions, for example, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, may have more difficulty handling the disruption to daily life that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.

As with any accommodation request, employers may:

  • Ask questions to determine whether the condition is a disability;
  • Discuss with the employee how the requested accommodation would assist him and enable him to keep working;
  • Explore alternative accommodations that may effectively meet his needs; and
  • Request medical documentation if needed.

As you move into the new normal in any essential or non-essential business, remember that not everyone shows stress or emotions the way that you may, so providing resources and support can help your workers feel heard. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make your business, your employees, and your community stronger.

Get COVID-19 Human Resources Support

MyHRConcierge offers a COVID-19 Support Package for small to mid-size employers. The package provides human resources news, guidance, and support related to COVID-19.

For more information regarding HR policies during the COVID-19 crisis, or other HR needs, contact MyHRConcierge at 1-855-538-6947 x.108 or email