Expect the Unexpected
This week we’re starting a new series looking ahead at projected health trends for the new year.
It seems a bit ironic – to be making predictions about the future right on the heels of one of the most unpredictable years in history. Even so, one thing’s for sure: there’s no shortage of research out there on the global impact of COVID-19 and its lasting effects on the world of medicine going forward.
While fully embracing the harsh lesson 2020 taught us of expect the unexpected, let’s dive into what 2021 may bring.
Every Company Will Learn to be a Healthcare Company
I was inspired this week by a Forbes article, “The 5 Biggest Healthcare Trends in 2021 Everyone Should Be Ready For Today.” (1) Author Bernard Marr’s first trend on the list captured my attention: “Healthcare a consideration in every aspect of life.”
Over the last several months, culture has made a huge shift and the lines of healthcare have bled into almost every facet of life. Even the local grocery store had to dip into the realm of healthcare by implementing strategies to mitigate the spread of the virus. Bernard writes, “In 2020, every company has had to become a tech company as data and computing have become essential to everything we do. In 2021, every company will learn to become a healthcare company, too, as safeguarding employees and customers becomes a core requirement of doing business.” (1)
Safeguarding Employees and Customers
The health and wellness of a business’s employees and customers became a major concern in 2020. While it wasn’t a new imperative, the pandemic pushed it to the forefront and made it absolutely vital if a business wanted to remain open.
Furthermore, as a result of the pandemic, there has been an exponential rise in the mental health needs of employees and consumers. Essentially, safeguarding employees and customers in 2021 will now include a focus on mental wellness as the rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are on the rise.
Mental Health Crisis
According to a study performed by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of anxiety have tripled and depression has quadrupled since 2019. (2)
The report reads, “Overall, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor- related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic (26.3%), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%).” (2)
Employers and those in positions of leadership, specifically Human Resources have new COVID-19-related criteria to consider when managing their employees and consumers.
The Stress of Life
The wellbeing of employees and consumers is now largely affected by social or environmental factors due to the pandemic.
According to a survey done by PwC’s Health Research Institute, sixty-one percent of consumers surveyed say a factor such as (but not limited to) sleep, affordable housing or childcare, or difficulty finding employment are affecting their ability to adopt a healthy lifestyle. (3)
The concerns of an individual’s healthcare goes beyond just what happens in their doctor’s office. PwC writes, “What happens outside the doctor’s office is more important than ever. It is important to engage a wide variety of organizations, including non-health organizations, to help consumers with the challenges they are facing.” (3)
The recently elevated levels of mental illness will likely (if not already) result in management having to wear the healthcare-provider-hat to some degree.
Employers are now having to provide options to help ease the rising issue of mental illness within their employee ranks by offering childcare options or reimbursement, and new mental health or stress-related benefits. (3)
Gone are the days of just focusing on disease, illness, and/or injury prevention. The employee’s and/or consumer’s wellbeing is now having to be evaluated and managed holistically.
This article, published by The Business Journals, provides some insightful tips on how to effectively prioritize the mental and emotional wellbeing of your employees. Here they are in summary:
1. Create a team to play “point”
This team is comprised of executive leadership and Human Resources. It serves as a sounding board for team members and is empowered to act on concerns, recommendations, and input from the team.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication should be bi-directional, consistent, reliable, and intentional. This may look like adding team huddles, one-on-one appointments, and/or anonymous surveys.
Author Patrick C. Evans sums it up nicely, “Companies should strongly consider investing in, or greatly enhancing, their own in-house mental health benefit to support those who are experiencing anxiety, stress, addiction, and other issues.”
It’s important to find creative ways your team can feel socially engaged. This could look like using corporate-based chat programs, video-based platforms, or socially distanced onsite opportunities.
5. Support your team
Evans reiterates the importance of employers supporting their employees’ emotional and mental wellbeing in the new year.
To Be Continued
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the topic of “Projected Health Trends for 2021” encompasses so much more than just what happens in the physician’s office, hospital, or other medical facility.
Looking forward into 2021, healthcare is a term that will overlap with almost every aspect of life. Our schools, stores, airports, and doctor’s offices will all have some degree of healthcare interwoven with the other services they provide.
In addition to providing means to mitigate the spread of the virus, if businesses want to remain open, they need to accommodate for the rapidly growing rate of mental illness due to COVID-19 and its mental and emotional impact.
Next week we continue looking into 2021.
Please let us know if you have comments or questions, and subscribe to our Email Updates, so that you can be assured to receive Thinking Thursdays TIPs.
Jerry L. Stone