Read on to find answers to the following questions:
- What is the current state of mental health among Polish employees?
- What are the possible causes of post-pandemic mental health problems?
- How can employers support the mental well-being of their employees?
The mental problems of Polish employees are often mentioned in the same breath as other detrimental effects of the pandemic. There is no doubt that prolonged lockdowns in combination with the uncertainty of tomorrow have left their mark on the well-being of Poles. A Benefit Systems report: “Tired, Indifferent and Uncommitted. Post-Pandemic Needs of Employees” (2022) shows that as many as 61% of professionally active Poles experienced mental problems more frequently during the pandemic! However, it would be a mistake to attribute problems with mental well-being solely to recent events. Even before the COVID-19 epidemic a number of studies revealed a widespread rise in mental health conditions due to lifestyle factors. 
Do you know that...
An estimated 12 billion workdays are lost annually due to depression and anxiety, costing the global economy nearly $1 trillion. 
It’s clear that the mental state of the Polish population has deteriorated compared to the pre-pandemic baseline . Stress levels alone have recently gone up in 53% of respondents, causing a deterioration in health.
However, COVID-19 was a factor that prompted employees to commit themselves to resolving the issue . The attitude of the employees has changed as well. Nearly half of them (48%) today expect mental health support from their employer .
What are the ways to prevent the escalation and mitigate the effects of existing mental health problems among the workforce?
1. Streamline communication
It turns out that mental health problems – both directly related and unrelated to the pandemic – are strongly linked to a sense of uncertainty and fears about the future. Nearly one-third (29%) of all employees surveyed for the report “Mental Health of Poles and Their Professional Life” prepared by LiveCareer.pl reported that their working situation was precarious. Among the employees struggling with mental health problems the percentage was 45%, which is close to half of the respondents.
In addition, individuals with mental health problems admit that they are generally dissatisfied with their working conditions or remuneration . The uncertainty of tomorrow, unpleasant workplace atmosphere, and poor salary have a detrimental impact on the mood of the workforce. Some of these problems can be managed not through a rapid influx of cash (this would be unrealistic advice), but a comprehensive, honest and open approach to communication, namely informing the workforce of the situation on the market and the company’s solutions to new challenges. Who knows, it might be a good way to turn fear into motivation to pursue a shared goal.
2. Give space
According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission, respondents from Central and Eastern Europe fare best in terms of mental health. However, experts claim that such surveys do not prove that Central and Eastern Europeans cope with stress better. Quite the opposite: in the countries of our region there is less awareness of mental hygiene, a greater stigma is attached to poor mental health, and there’s a problem with access to psychiatrists and psychotherapists . Companies are able to influence all these factors, enabling all employees, e.g. online psychologist consultations.
Let’s start with the stigma around mental health problems. Companies are advised to implement policies and procedures to ensure that their employees are not afraid to talk about their issues and to know who they can turn to when they experience a decline in their mental well-being. Appropriate information about such procedures can be provided by managers, but employees should have ongoing access to them on the intranet. The intranet is also a good platform for posting information about courses and training sessions available in benefit programs (such as MultiLife’s mindfulness course).
3. Talk face-to-face
Experts highlight that during online meetings even experienced and extremely empathetic managers find it difficult to see the signs that their employees struggle with their mental well-being. It’s easy to fake good mental health and a positive attitude during half-hour status meetings in the app. An eight-hour session in the office is quite a different story . It’s important to take this aspect into consideration when planning on-site work in a hybrid working model.
4. Take care of managers
Even though managers are often on the frontline of dealing with their staff’s mental health problems, they lack adequate knowledge in this area. It turns out that this is a serious and widespread problem, not exclusive to Poland . The underlying reason may be the same as with the integration of distributed teams – companies are faced with too many changes too fast. Consequently, it pays off to allocate time and resources to support managers in educating themselves about mental health. In fact, the WHO has recently recommended such measures as well .
5. Recommend a healthy diet
Other aspects with a major impact on mental health in which companies can support their employees include diet and eating habits. The brain is an organ that needs a substantial amount of energy and nutrients. To function properly, the brain must be supplied with appropriate amino acids, fats, vitamins, minerals and trace elements .
You can read more about this in the article: “Did you know that what you eat can keep you away from a promotion or bonus? Does food affect our productivity?”.
Employers have access to many tools supporting the healthy eating habits of their workforce. For example, they may designate specific areas in the office where employees can prepare and eat meals in a relaxed environment. They can also take advantage of benefits programs to offer their employees consultations with a dietitian, courses in healthy eating or solutions that assist in adopting and following dietary recommendations (such as MultiLife Diet).
6. Promote physical activity
According to the Benefit Systems 2022 report mentioned above, for the vast majority of employees (95%) physical activity is a good way to ease work-related stress. As many as 93% report that exercise has a positive effect on memory and concentration, and boosts
creative thinking. 
These data are consistent with other scientific studies . Importantly, in addition to being an instant mood booster, physical activity has a more long-term preventive effect, protecting the body from stressors over a sustained period of time .
There is no doubt that the workforce will appreciate any support in this area. As many as 47% of employees already expect their employers to be more
committed to supporting physical activity and a healthy lifestyle . In the pursuit of this goal, companies can take advantage of many solutions, but traditionally the best results are achieved through synergy. For example, the power of company teams can be combined with MultiSport card services and consultations with a personal trainer and access to a platform with online training available in MultiLife.
7. Keep track of health
Talking to employees on a regular basis and paying attention to changes in the working climate is one thing. However, the workforce can also benefit from the monitoring of other parameters. This is because employees’ mental well-being is also affected by their general health . Such issues can be tackled by organizing company health days or, for example, providing employees with benefits that comprise packages of laboratory tests or Telemedi services (easy and quick online access to diagnosticians).
8. Focus on well-being
Experts point out that health can be adversely affected by a range of factors including fast pace of life, chronic exposure to stress, and sleep disorders. They are known to exacerbate mood swings, cause fatigue, bring down motivation, and reduce decision-making skills. These effects arise from an impairment of neurological functions . Consequently, to enhance the well-being of employees, but also to improve work performance indicators, companies are advised to implement measures optimizing work/life balance. In addition, teams can be supported through training opportunities, for example yoga or breathing courses , or applications such as Focusly. A full range of such solutions is available in the MultiLife benefit package.
Prevention is better than cure, so it’s important to foster a healthy working environment, based on a good atmosphere and open communication, with a focus on proper work/life balance, where employees are not overloaded with responsibilities. It’s not possible to completely eliminate stress from life. By the same token, it’s unrealistic to expect that employers will look after the well-being of their employees around the clock by encouraging them to eat properly and exercise, and have regular check-ups. Still, the company’s role in the process is not to be ignored, and its potential should be exploited to the full. For everyone’s benefit.
- Raport Benefit Systems „Zmęczeni, obojętni, niezaangażowani. Postpandemiczne potrzeby pracowników”, 2022.