Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.
Question: My company is preparing to reopen the office. I’m excited to get back to work, but I’m also really worried. I have anxiety and clinical depression that has been exacerbated during the pandemic. Previously, my company hasn’t paid much attention to mental health, but I feel like COVID-19 has changed the game. How do I talk about my options with my manager? Can I ask them to provide resources? – Anonymous
Taylor: I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with anxiety and depression, though, I completely understand why your return to work would bring up mixed emotions.
On the one hand, getting back into a routine can be comforting. But on the other, this “old” routine for many employees is very different than the normal they knew before COVID-19.
I want you to know you’re not alone. Nearly 1 in 4 employees report feeling down, depressed, or hopeless often, and 41% feel burnt out, drained, or exhausted from their work.
You’re exactly right about COVID-19 turning employers’ attention to mental health. As companies create return-to-work policies and procedures, many are now including information and resources to help meet employees’ mental health needs.
Does your company offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? If you’re unsure, ask HR. Through these programs, many organizations offer mental health resources, such as counseling services, through health insurance carriers and EAPs.
As you know, depression and anxiety can make it difficult to focus on work – especially at a time when the world seems upside down. If you feel like your work will be significantly impacted, I suggest working together with your doctor and your employer to explore reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you go this route, I recommend reflecting on your experience first. I know sifting through and understanding emotions can be difficult. But if you notice something specific– taking public transit, sitting too close to co-workers, etc. – triggers negative thoughts or feelings, focus your efforts on finding an accommodation that addresses that stress, such as telework or a staggered schedule at the office.
Thank you for sharing your struggle – I hope this helps. Have a happy and healthy return to work!
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