Oin the last year and a half, the bombs have been dropping. The global pandemic, regardless of race, political unrest, the report after the apocalyptic report on climate change. All of this disorder has had a profound effect on our mental health, and our ability to focus on work.

A recent study found that 1,500 three-quarters of Americans in the workforce surveyed had at least one symptom of a living mental health condition in the past year, such as anxiety, burnout, or depression. That’s 59 percent by 2019, according to Mind Share Partners, a nonprofit focused on mental health in the workplace.

As these issues come to the fore, more and more companies are becoming more aware of the crucial role that employers can play in helping the well-being of dependent people. Some local businesses are setting up company-wide rest days in turbulent times, offering free therapy visits and monitoring company morale; A CEO who conducted weekly staff virtual meditation sessions has seen an increase in attendance.

Wistia video hosting platform executives have repeatedly shut down operations due to “need and trauma,” says Taylor Roa, Wistia’s talent director. The Cambridge company was shut down for two days shortly after the death of George Floyd, and in the White House following the January 6 uprising. After a nervous cycle of presidential elections, Wistia also celebrated Inauguration Day. “There were several times last year when we couldn’t ask people to show up for work,” says Roa. “Telling people to take the place they need is something we always do, but the reality is that some teams can’t fully take the place if the company operates in the same capacity.”

Wistia also took a day off before Labor Day weekend as a gift to staff. It is the first investment of the people, according to Roa, that these closures have not had a significant negative impact on revenue or customer satisfaction. He said the company would consider closing again if conditions so require. “I think part of the mix we’re seeing in the talent market is what people call the ‘big resignation,'” he says. that they have to work and put it first. ‘

But there is still a disconnect between what employees need and what employers provide. A survey by Modern Health in September found that more than 85 percent of C-suite executives and human resources leaders said they helped their employees’ mental health properly, but only about 65 percent of employees agreed. Nearly 30 of the workers said their employer did not meet their mental health needs.

Switching to remote work during the pandemic was a major source of anxiety, especially for parents facing caregivers and those isolated from regular support sources, such as physical group classes and lunch with friends. “What people were struggling with increased,” says Janna Koretz, founder of Boston’s Azimuth Psychological, which helps people with high-pressure careers. “And the unknown of a pandemic, both in terms of real health … and not knowing when people could return to normal life was quite frightening for people.” because they do so, either through systemic changes that promote flexibility, or through increased health insurance benefits.

In April, Akamai Technologies of Cambridge began offering 16 free visits to a mental health professional through a platform that helps staff find therapists and schedule appointments. Amy Claffey, CEO of Internet Services, said: “These benefits have been great for giving people a way out and talking to someone. spouses and children can also sign up for free therapy sessions.

Jason Main, director of the Akamai program, has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan four times in the Army for 26 years, and knows more than those who died fighting suicide after returning home. At the time of the pandemic, he was processing everything in isolation until a close friend and veteran took his own life. “I thought it was probably time to start talking to someone,” Maine says. “I was a bit of a prisoner and alone with my thoughts. I wanted to seek professional help to make sure I was in the right direction. ”

It wasn’t until Main started his therapy with Akamai’s new program — the first time he had spoken to a professional since he left the military — that he realized the impact the trauma had on his life. He says it has been a transformative experience.

At a Adams + Beasley Associates workplace, which monitors employee well-being with a monthly “morale gauge”.ANDREW RILEY

Leaders of the Carlisle-based Adams + Beasley Associates design and construction company have been posting a monthly “morale meter” for several years, but the pandemic prompted the company to follow these measures of employee welfare more consistently. “We ask people to rate their morale on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being pedestrian and stylish, and one,‘ I’m getting my hair done, ’” says founder Eric Adams. The sharpest drop in morale was in March 2020, Adams said, but the company recovered after construction workers left their workplaces. Since then, the morale has been hovering around 6 highs and 7 lows around the previous pandemic.

Company leaders can evaluate data as an average for the entire company or by comparing different branches of the business. Employees also have the opportunity to provide feedback on their responses, which are then used by executives as a basis for changes in workplace practices. “We hold meetings of all the companies every quarter, and a couple of months ago one of the opinions on the morale survey was a suggestion to change the format of the company meeting,” says Adams. “And we did that, and the individual who made the suggestion was highly valued. They felt that they had been heard. ‘

At The Hollister Group, a Boston-based employee company, Kip Hollister’s weekly participation in CEO’s guided meditations for employees has gone from the roof to the audience staying at Zoom.

Vice President Sarah Dardeno was hired to join the meditation after joining the weekly sessions in 2017, and the pandemic helped make them stale. “When you’re a leader, you have to have a board for your people and soundtrack for them, so you have to take that a lot of that and frustration, and be afraid people were feeling [during the pandemic]”So I went back to myself and had a quiet moment of clarity and calm, which really helped me to be more present again and be there for anyone who needed me.”

Kip Hollister’s long-distance guided meditation group.  Above: Adams + Beasley Associates Workplace Monitoring Employee Welfare Monthly
Kip Hollister’s long-distance guided meditation group. Justin Saglio / The Boston Globe / File

In an office meditation room equipped with comfortable seating and cushions on the floor, Hollister begins each session by asking everyone to describe how they feel in one word. When asked again at the end of the session, he says their response has usually been positive.

“It’s so the opposite, when we’re stressed, because we tend to keep doing things that stress us out instead of hitting the stop button and going inward,” says Hollister. “And when we put self-care first, we’ll all be better at our job.”


Angela Yang is a Boston Globe correspondent. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.


Angela Yang can be reached at angela.yang@globe.com.