The Covid-19 pandemic has been with us for almost a year and will most likely be here for some time to come. Its direct effects on people's lives are obvious and there is no need to analyse them in any complex manner, the same with the effects on the economy and the functioning of companies. However, the pandemic revealed another brutal truth - how much we overlook and how little we care about mental health. The health of us, our loved ones, our employees and customers. Should marketers be interested?
I warn you in advance, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist and I assume that there will not be many of them among my readers either. Even so, I think it's an important topic that should interest you. For starters - moderate depression or anxiety is considered to be impaired mental health. However, people often do not deal with these difficulties, which is of course a problem. But what causes them to not pay attention to it? Perhaps it's because even a visit to a psychotherapist in our country (Czech Republic) is still considered to be something strange, humiliating, something we should be ashamed of - "I'm no nutcase." At the same time, we go straight for a massage, to a physiotherapist or directly to the doctor if our back is sore. However, most of the population does not go anywhere on account of problems with their head, let alone deal with them preventively, even though the head is their main source of livelihood in most cases.
The fact is that many people in the Czech Republic (approximately 6%) did not manage to maintain their mental state in good condition long before the pandemic, but with the crisis, the situation has predictably worsened. The research "Life during a pandemic"
showed that the first wave caused mental problems in 20% of people. That's every fifth person! The situation affected mothers and young people under the age of 24 the most, with even more than a third of the problems occurring in their case. In general, only every fourth person seeks professional help. The number of suicides has apparently not yet increased in the Western world, but according to some studies, an increase is expected in the medium term.
The positive news is that the second and third waves have already had and continue to have a slightly smaller impact, but these are still alarming numbers that can and probably will have an impact on our economy for several years to come.
What can companies and brands do about it? I would divide it into employees and customers. In terms of employees, studies show that in the United States alone, depression and anxiety cause a trillion dollars in lost productivity each year
. The reasoning is simple: do you contribute to the protection of physical health - such as a gym, sauna or swimming pool - for employees? Great, try the same when it comes to their mental health. This does not necessarily mean a personal coach or therapist for each employee. For a complete start, training programmes and the right prevention settings, along with good internal communication, will suffice. It's also good to have an overview of how your people feel - it may not seem so, but the level of fear of a pandemic today is almost at the same level as during the first lockdown. Working with these factors will not only raise your esteem in the eyes of employees (and potential ones), but the data demonstrates that it has been shown to benefit labour productivity and that mental health investment programs also have positive ROIs in corporations. The median annual return on investment for the monitored multi-annual programs exceeded 200% in one study
. Maybe it's time to start working on a mental health strategy in the workplace. It will greatly help in crises like this, but it will also facilitate long-term work with the young generation, which are now slowly and uncertainly entering the work process.
And the customers? There are countless possibilities here. Whether your brand is engaged in any CSR activity or better yet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), health and quality of life is one of the key points. Again, this does not necessarily mean a huge investment, but small concessions in daily contact with customers can bring you positive points. It can be a deferred payment, an extended due date, forgiven arrears, an individual discount or just something extra. Many will just appreciate that you are interested. When you also make an honest dollar from your positioning, not only the generation Z - which is one of the most affected right now - will definitely applaud you.