Supporting Employee Behavioral Health and Well-Being to Manage the Challenges of Racism and Social Injustice
Concerns about racism and social injustice (R&SI) are affecting the behavioral health and well-being of many employees. Because of these concerns, and the profound disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, stress, and depression.
To help employees manage the behavioral health challenges of R&SI, Pathways surveyed its employees to evaluate their concerns about R&SI. Employee survey results guided the development of virtual courses and virtual discussion groups to provide effective behavioral health support.
Pathways Employee Survey
Pathways developed a survey to evaluate employee concerns about R&SI. Approximately 64% of Pathways’ 4,700 employees completed the anonymous survey during the summer of 2020.
96% of Pathways employees who completed the survey indicated that they were extremely, very, or moderately concerned about R&SI. 91% indicated that they had observed others experiencing R&SI. 80% indicated that they were anxious about R&SI. 77% indicated that they had personally experienced R&SI.
Pathways employees who completed the survey indicated considerable interest in employer support to help them manage these behavioral health challenges. 75% supported training and 64% supported discussion groups.
Indicated they were extremely, very, or moderately concerned about R&SI
Indicated they had observed others experiencing R&SI
Indicated they were anxious or experiencing stress about R&SI
Indicated they had personally experienced R&SI
Pathways established a steering committee of behavioral health professionals, human resource leaders, and operations specialists to evaluate the survey results and develop plans for a program to help employees manage their behavioral health concerns due to R&SI.
Consistent with the CDC’s recommendations on the value of virtual educational programs to help employees manage behavioral health issues, the steering committee planned virtual courses and virtual discussion groups to address the behavioral health concerns identified in the employee survey, as the majority of Pathways employees were working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Courses and discussion groups were developed by Pathways behavioral health professionals. The courses were scheduled bi-weekly for 30-45 minutes, presented virtually, and available live or recorded. Attendance at the courses and participation in the discussion groups was voluntary. The courses and discussion groups were designed to provide practical behavioral health advice on how to manage R&SI.
Pathways Educational Courses
Educational courses and discussion groups on R&SI were provided to Pathways employees by Pathways behavioral health specialists during July – October, 2020 on the following behavioral health topics:
- Understanding emotional stress and anxiety
- Managing emotions
- Navigating conversations
- Understanding collective trauma
- Supporting changes
- Leading your team
Employees were invited to complete evaluations after each course and discussion group. The evaluations were highly favorable, with more than 95% of employees indicating they strongly agreed or agreed in their evaluation of:
- Content communication
- Faculty knowledge
- Content relevance
Employees were also invited to provide individual comments after each of the courses and discussion groups. Typical of the many employee comments on the courses and discussion groups are the following:
“These trainings are timely and I’m grateful for them. They’ve opened my eyes to race relations and social injustice. Keep them coming.”
“These discussions allow employees to discuss thoughts and feelings so the uncomfortable becomes comfortable.”
“Giving employees the psychological safety to discuss their concerns and speak up is important.”
The Pathways employee survey demonstrated that employee concerns about R&SI have caused employees to experience significant challenges to their behavioral health and well-being. Many employees had observed others experiencing racism and social injustice or had personally experienced racism and social injustice.
The courses and discussion groups which Pathways behavioral health specialists developed to address employees’ behavioral health concerns demonstrate that effective behavioral health courses and discussion groups can be provided to employees through virtual technology.
Voluntary employee attendance at the courses and participation in the discussion groups show that employees will attend courses and participate in discussion groups led by knowledgeable behavioral health specialists who provide information employees consider relevant and effective.
The employee evaluations of the courses and discussion groups demonstrate that virtual courses and discussion groups can provide effective behavioral health support for employees.
Although this case study is limited to Pathways employees, our surveys of the behavioral health concerns of employees at other companies have demonstrated similar behavioral health concerns due to R&SI. Pathways’ experience suggests that to help employees manage the behavioral health challenges due to R&SI, employers should survey their employees to understand their behavioral health concerns and provide courses, discussion groups, and practical information to support employees’ behavioral health and well-being.
About Pathways at Work
Our Pathways at Work Program is a series of customized webinars, on-demand training, tools, and interactive discussion groups designed to help employees manage overall anxiety and the stress caused by the pandemic and concerns about racism and social injustice. Pathways delivers tens of thousands of trainings and millions of services each year.