This is part 1 of a two-part interview. Part 1 originally aired on our Engaging Leader podcast as episode 206 and is re-airing here as episode 34. Part 2 is exclusive to this Workforce Health Engagement podcast. So if you’ve already heard part 1, feel free to skip ahead to episode 35 for part 2, about Apps & Tech for Employee Mental Health During the Coronavirus Crisis.

Join my conversation with the Deputy Chief Health Officer at IBM, with a 350,000-person global workforce, about measures that major companies are taking during the COVID-19 pandemic, including recommendations for employee mental health.

The world’s population is facing considerable social and economic disruption. Millions of employees and employers are adjusting to circumstances not seen for over a century. For many of us the “new normal” is working from home, which may cause additional stress as we deal with our job, spouses, kids, parents, and pets — not to mention anxiety regarding the coronavirus infection itself.

In a recent Axios-Ipsos poll surveying 1,000 people, 43% of respondents said their emotional well-being had gotten worse in the past week as more people deal with isolation.  

As we try to keep ourselves and our families safe and cope with the stress of physical isolation and disrupted routines, we can succumb to feelings of isolation, anxiousness, and loneliness. For those with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, coping with this stress can aggravate underlying conditions. Managing our mental health problems, for a host of reasons, can often include shame or stigma, and continues to take a backseat to promoting physical wellness.

William J. Kassler, MD, MPH is the Deputy Chief Health Officer for IBM. Dr. Kassler has spent his career working at the intersection of clinical care and population health; as a practicing primary care internist, epidemiologist, health services researcher, public sector administrator, and health policy expert. You can read his latest work, Turning Barriers Into Benefits to Facilitate Public Health and Business Partnership, in the American Journal of Public Health.

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