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I’ve heard from numerous CEOs who say they expect a substantial proportion of their staff to continue to work from home, at least part time, once the pandemic passes. And why not? Now that we’ve learned the habit of video conferencing, it’s an opportunity to save both commute time and high-priced office rent.
But there’s a dark side to the work-from-home story that isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Speaking yesterday with a group of CEOs assembled virtually by Fortune, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff said 36% of his employees have reported having mental health issues during the lockdown. That’s a stunning statistic. Later in the day, Synchrony CEO Margaret Keane made a similar comment to a separate virtual group of executives, assembled by Fortune and McKinsey. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of calls” on mental health issues, she said. “It is something we have to be very focused on.”
Some of the problem is anxiety provoked by the pandemic. Some is the burden of caring for children out of school and elderly, vulnerable parents, often at the same time. Some, said Keane, is “domestic issues.” In a piece written for Fortune, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In Cofounder Rachel Thomas said the problem is particularly pronounced among women. “Homeschooling kids and caring for sick or elderly relatives during the pandemic is creating a ‘double double shift.’ It’s pushing women to the breaking point.”
Lean In conducted a survey in April that found “one in four women say they are experiencing severe anxiety with physical symptoms like a racing heartbeat. One in 10 men say the same. More than half of all women are currently struggling with sleep issues.”