Though to some of us it seems ages ago (thanks pandemic time distortion!) we recently passed the one-year anniversary of the declaration of a worldwide pandemic and the Federal declaration of a state of national emergency due to the coronavirus. Most of us remember that day.  For me, it’s unforgettable.  The news came on a video screen in a crowed, non-socially distanced, mask-less waiting area at the then bustling beehive called the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport.  That’s where my friend and colleague Jenny Naja and I awaited a flight to visit a client in Virginia.  When we heard the news, we both simultaneously looked at one another and said “uh-oh”!  Little could we have guessed what the next year would bring.  At that moment, we both guessed the outcome would be more like an extended Atlanta snow holiday.  Not so. That turned out to be our last business trip for a while and the beginning of a journey shared by millions of people into a new reality and a changed lifestyle.

One year later, 117 Million COVID-19 cases and 2.59 Million worldwide deaths have been reported. And after untold economic, personal, and social disruption and distress. Still, there are increasing glimmers of optimism that society may return to some level of pre-pandemic normality later this year as vaccinations scale up.

Employee safety is now the number one priority of business leaders

One sign of this in the business community is a result that was published this month in a survey by an HR service provider.  The survey of 300 business leaders in a variety of industries noted that employee safety has bumped perennial leader, recruiting, out of the top spot as the number one priority of business leaders.  (Oops, sorry I thought employee safety was always the main concern of managers.) I hope employee safety remains number one for a long time because safe employees are engaged and productive employees.

The survey also indicated that business leaders acknowledged that their employees’ levels of stress were much higher today than before the pandemic. (I wonder if the leaders’ personal experience helped sensitize them to their employees’ stress?). I was encouraged to see that many leaders want to improve their employees’ benefits.  I hope a lesson learned is that benefits that support and sustain their employees’ wellbeing and help them manage their personal stress well beyond the pandemic is good business.

Looking forward to the balance of 2021, business leaders are clearly concerned about how to safely bring employees back from remote work and how they can safely resume regular operations.  Of course, some workers, such as healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers and agents, truck drivers, teachers, and grocery store employees have worked ‘regular operations’ throughout the pandemic. I’m very grateful to them because their work has allowed me and my loved ones to at least have some degree of normality in our lives.   We all owe them a great deal of gratitude and thanks.

If you are a business leader or a benefits or human resource manager, now is a good time to examine your benefits that support employee wellbeing.  And if you are a business leader and wish to share how the pandemic has changed your thinking or your company’s approach to employee wellbeing, I’d welcome hearing from you. I can be reached at

About the Author

Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions – solutions like our AI powered chatbot, TESS – to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help people and organizations achieve their full potential by providing mental health support and driving positive behavioral change. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.


Move Over Recruiting, Workplace Safety is Now the #1 Priority

HR Daily Advisor