As the coronavirus pandemic continues, 96 per cent of U.S. employers say their employees are stressed out, with 58 per cent saying they’re “somewhat” stressed out and 38 per cent saying they’re “very” stressed out, according to a new survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

In addition, 88 per cent said the stress of their employees is higher now than it was two years ago.

“Returning to in-person or hybrid work is increasing this spring and summer,” said Julie Stich, vice-president of content at the IFEBP, in a press release. “This shift could exacerbate mental-health issues, demands on caregivers’ time and stress for employees. Additionally, the long-term effects of the pandemic are still with us. With the return to the office, mental-health challenges and substance use disorders may be more difficult to conceal while face to face with co-workers.”

Read: Pandemic affecting U.S. employees’ financial stress, productivity: survey

In terms of barriers to enhancing mental-health and substance use offerings, the two most commonly cited ones are fears that admitting a problem may negatively impact job security (36 per cent) and fears about confidentiality (35 per cent). Around a third (29 per cent) of respondents said employees don’t acknowledge or aren’t ready to address their problems, while a similar percentage (28 per cent) cited discomfort among supervisors in addressing the issue with employees.

According to the survey, the top ways employers have increased awareness of mental-health benefits include access to online resources and tools (81 per cent), information posted in paper format or online (64 per cent), newsletters or other communications (53 per cent) and information sessions offered at the worksite (44 per cent).

Some of the most common mental-health and substance use disorder benefits employers cited were employee assistance programs or similar programs (86 per cent), wellness programs that include a relevant component (53 per cent) and mindfulness/meditation tools and resources (45 per cent).

Read: How the pandemic has evolved the meaning of an EAP

The results also showed EAP use increased from 7.4 per cent in 2019 to 9.2 per cent in 2021, with the most common EAP services being mental-health assistance/counselling (93 per cent), crisis hotlines (83 per cent), caregiving assistance (65 per cent), support for managers (53 per cent) and onsite speakers (48 per cent).

“Whether employees are suffering from stress or facing more complex mental-health issues, fostering resiliency skills has been shown to be effective,” said Stich. “The preventive tools offered help build those skills.”