Merck’s Mental Health and Wellness Programs Support Employees During COVID-19 Pandemic
A COVID-19 Response Story
For global pharmaceutical company Merck, having existing mental health and wellbeing programs in place has proven beneficial in responding to employees’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, Merck’s LIVE IT initiative, a holistic approach to wellbeing designed by and for Merck employees and their families, offers resources to support employees’ mental and emotional health. The program is centered around four “pillars,” one of which —“Balance It”—includes mindfulness workshops and the company’s Resources for Living employee assistance program (EAP).
In addition, Merck’s Mind Well program, a company-wide initiative focused on supporting employees’ mental and emotional health, has been instrumental in helping to address issues such as fear and uncertainty, social isolation, and changes in work environment. The program, which was launched in 2018, uses employee volunteers called “Mind Well Champions” to support their colleagues and provide mental health information and resources. During the pandemic, Mind Well Champions—who represent many facets of the company—gathered feedback on the challenges employees are facing and quickly disseminate information about available supports to their networks via emails, newsletters, and the company’s internal website. This includes broad promotion of the company’s EAP, which has resulted in increased awareness and utilization of the program over the past few months.
Mind Well Champions also identified new resources that employees indicated would help them, such as those related to coping with stress and anxiety, working from home, dealing with social isolation and disruption in routine, and developing resilience. It was also discovered that employees were seeking ways to connect with one another while social distancing. In response, Merck developed a series of four weekly, 30-minute “Mind Well Connect” webinars focused on common concerns, such as stress management and parenting challenges. These webinars consisted of brief presentations followed by a discussion period so that employees could get answers to questions, learn more about available resources, and connect with others.
Merck also recorded an internal podcast offering suggestions on ways to stay connected to colleagues while teleworking. To help employees develop resilience, the company created an educational program with a psychologist that was promoted through the Mind Well Champions network. Furthermore, the “Mindful Minutes” program, which offers a six-week, daily telephone-based guided meditation practice to help reduce employee stress and adrenal fatigue, was extended for an additional two months. Participation in the program has tripled over the past few months, further indication that having existing programs in place to support employee mental health greatly enhanced Merck’s ability to meet their needs during this challenging time.