The current lockdown in Germany will last until April 18. A renewed extension is not excluded. And for many employees this means home office, less social contacts, short-time work and the balancing act between family and job. COVID-19 has permanently changed the way we work and live our daily lives.
That’s why we talked with Amelie Wiedemann, Co-Founder of DearEmployee – a corporate health platform – about the importance of mental health at the workplace.
What is behind DearEmployee and what’s the goal of your startup?
Founding DearEmployee was motivated by content. In our research projects on stress in the workplace at Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, we found that it’s often difficult for companies to translate data into action after conducting a mental risk assessment. By this we mean that companies often take a long time to find and implement appropriate measures to help employees who are under a great deal of psychological stress.
Why is that?
After a mental stress risk assessment, many questions often remain unanswered, such as where can a HR manager find a suitable coach? Or where to find good management trainers? Many HR managers resort to Google. However, this won’t bring up quality results and is therefore an unsuitable guide. Generally, it takes HR departments a long time to find suitable measures, check their quality, implement them and track their effectiveness. In addition, the market for health coaching and promotion is highly fragmented so the search is often extremely challenging.
How does DearEmployee address this problem?
With DearEmployee, we wanted to kill several birds with one stone right from the start and create a corporate health platform for mental health in the workplace through which companies can easily and digitally identify and reduce negative working conditions with a mental risk assessment developed by us.
In the process, companies benefit from increased employee productivity. We hope that DearEmployee will make work a better place for many employees and that all people are happy in their jobs and can go about their work in healthy conditions.
Earlier this year, you conducted an analysis of the extra mental stress experienced by 22,000 employees during the first two waves of Corona. What were your learnings?
We learnt that despite short-term changes in work circumstances, the majority of employees surveyed felt they had good mental health. This result is surprising at first glance, but it’s important to remember that the survey involved employees of our customers. These companies have been concerned about the health of their employees for years. Therefore, it can be concluded that employees in companies that have invested a lot in the health of their employees seem to be more resilient.
That sounds great!
However, the percentage of employees who rated their mental health as very poor has increased by 5 – 7 percent since 2019. The biggest change in the way we currently work is in our decreased mobility and movement. That’s not surprising, seeing as that’s what the policies were aimed at. Another trend is the dissolution of boundaries between private and working life. Employees state they feel they have to be constantly available and that their work-life balance suffers greatly as a result. In addition, many say they miss the informal exchange within the team which for many is an important buffer against stress.
Employees state they feel they have to be constantly available and that their work-life balance suffers greatly as a result. In addition, many say they miss the informal exchange within the team which for many is an important buffer against stress.Dr. Amelie Wiedemann, Co-Founder of DearEmployee
How can companies deal with these challenges?
HR and management should focus on promoting a healthy corporate culture, with employees discouraged from working over time. Another great idea is a digital leadership workshop for managers, including a discussion within the team for employees to voice their concerns. I also recommend offering immediate psychological help for anyone who’s not feeling well.
How can each company address their different needs?
The most important thing is not to rush into offering anything, but to adapt your offer to the individual needs of the employee. What good is a take-out lunch for home office if everyone suffers with long working hours? The best measures are those that solve the real problems. For example, supervision for cashiers who are treated badly by customers and an intensive remote exercise class for those who are sitting too much.
What are the long-term benefits of such measures for a company?
Because our customers track the effectiveness of health strategies independently and at regular intervals via the DearEmployee platform, they can help the affected employees much more efficiently as the strategies can be adapted at any time. It has been proven that employee productivity increases when working conditions are right. Employer attractiveness increases and the costs of occupational health management decrease. As a result, employee turnover decreases and companies will see the benefits of their health measures in their ROI.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights!