In today’s uncertain and unprecedented times, our mental health is understandably suffering, which can negatively affect our performance, especially at work. Although efforts have been made to reduce the stigma around mental health discussions, many workplaces still face challenges in making significant progress. However, by raising awareness and educating their workforce about the importance of well-being, businesses can address this critical issue and create a better working environment. This article delves into the challenges of mental health and well-being in the workplace, examines ways in which leaders can support their teams’ well-being and highlights the benefits of investing in employee well-being initiatives.
HOW DO WE DEFINE EMPLOYEE MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health is an essential element of a person’s overall well-being. It encompasses a person’s emotional, psychological and social health, which can be affected by life experiences, social relationships, and work-related stress. A healthy mental state enables a person to think clearly, cope with stress, and make responsible decisions. Research reveals a significant link between mental and physical health risks, suggesting that it can influence how we feel, act, and think.
Moreover, the employee experience has a direct influence on a company’s key performance indicators, such as productivity, creativity, and social interaction. Despite this, many companies are not paying enough attention to employee wellbeing. Even though some HR and risk departments may think they have addressed mental health, the issue is still present due to factors such as economic instability, political tension and the potential of a recession. Therefore, stress and anxiety can be expected to increase in the near future.
UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUES OF MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the nature of work changed for many. As the workforce evolved, the lines between professional and personal lives often became blurry, leading to increased stress and burnout. In fact, according to APA’s 2022 Work and Well-being Survey, nearly 39% of employees report not being engaged at work.1
Stigmas around the subject of mental health at work are not doing anything to help the issues. Studies reveal that only 20% of employees feel comfortable discussing mental health concerns at work.2 This highlights the continued fear and anxiety surrounding the topic in the workplace, with many worried that acknowledging their mental health struggles could be viewed as a sign of weakness.
As Kayla Lebovits, CEO of Bundle Benefits, explains, this can create heightened anxiety around the fear of losing job opportunities or affect employee promotions. “Ultimately, these stigmas work to develop a culture of silence and mistrust.”3
THE HIGH COST OF POOR MENTAL HEALTH
Poor mental health can have a significant financial impact on a business, costing employers billions of dollars each year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, untreated mental illness costs the US economy over $200 billion each year in lost earnings.4 In addition, the cost of healthcare and disability benefits for employees with mental health issues is significantly higher than for those without.
Moreover, poor mental health can also lead to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and presenteeism – a situation where employees show up to work but are not fully present or engaged. This can result in decreased quality of work and a negative impact on the overall performance of the organization.
Yet, the impact of poor mental health is not just financial. It can also have a significant impact on employee well-being, leading to stress, burnout, and other physical health issues. This can result in high employee turnover rates, difficulty in attracting and retaining top talent and a damaged brand reputation.
Employers need to recognize the importance of investing in employee mental health to mitigate these negative impacts. A focus on creating a healthy workplace culture, providing access to mental health resources and support, and promoting a work-life balance can help to create a more productive, engaged, and resilient workforce.
HOW CAN EMPLOYERS SUPPORT MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE?
Employers have a crucial role to play in supporting the mental health and well-being of their employees. While it may seem like a daunting task, supporting employee engagement and well-being does not have to be complex or expensive. It’s about developing the right approach that is tailored to the unique needs and desires of your workforce.
Effective employee well-being programs aim to support a culture of mental health and wellness throughout the organization. Here are some key features that can be included in these programs:
- Offering a diverse range of benefits that help reduce stress related to health and finances. This may include affordable health insurance, an employer-sponsored retirement plan, programs dedicated to supporting employee mental health, and financial fitness support programs. By offering these benefits, employers can help alleviate financial stress and promote a healthier lifestyle among their workforce.5
- Providing flexible work hours or work from home options. Offering flexible hours or remote work can be a simple, low-cost way to help support work-life balance. This can help employees better manage their workload and personal responsibilities, leading to reduced stress levels and improved job satisfaction.6
- Confidential online communication systems that provide an anonymous way for team members to communicate issues. These systems promote connectivity, timely response, and swift action, which can help prevent small issues from becoming larger problems.
- Opportunities for enjoyment and enrichment that can be customized to fit your business culture. These programs can range from initiatives to improve physical and mental health to simply recognizing service during challenging times. By offering these programs, employers can promote a positive work environment and a sense of community among their workforce.
- Offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide free, confidential assistance and connect employees to a broad range of services. These services may include finding childcare, fitness programs, or counseling referrals. By offering EAPs, employers can help their employees navigate personal and professional challenges, reducing stress and promoting overall well-being.7
INVESTMENTS IN MENTAL HEALTH OFFER BOTTOM-LINE BENEFITS
Employee wellbeing initiatives are becoming increasingly important for companies looking to create a healthy and productive workplace culture. Prioritizing mental health is particularly important, with studies showing that investing in effective mental health care can result in significant bottom-line benefits.
For every $1 invested in treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in terms of improved productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower disability costs. This makes investing in mental health care a smart financial decision for employers.8
Furthermore, surveys have shown that younger employees prioritize wellness benefits when considering job opportunities. In fact, an estimated 80% of employees between the ages of 18-39 value wellness benefits when looking for a job.9
Given the competitive nature of the job market, prioritizing employee mental health and wellbeing is a necessary step for companies looking to attract and retain top talent long term. By investing in mental health initiatives, employers can create a more engaged and productive workforce, while also improving their bottom line.
To learn more about how to support mental health in your organization, check out our webinar on Mental Health and Employee Well-being. This webinar will provide valuable insights into creating a healthy and productive workplace culture that prioritizes mental health and wellbeing for all employees.
- Mike C. Perna. “It’s Time To Embrace Mental Health Discussions In The Workplace. Here’s Why.” Fobes.com. Retrieved March 3, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcperna/2023/02/28/its-time-to-embrace-mental-health-discussions-in-the-workplace-heres-why/?sh=48673b55ba05
- AJ Skiera.” Workplace mental health a priority for today’s workers.” Theharispoll.com. Retrieved March 7, 2023. https://theharrispoll.com/briefs/workplace-mental-health-awareness-week/
- PERNA. “MENTAL HEALTH DISCUSSIONS“
- “2020 devastated US mental health, healing must be a priority.” nami.org. Feb 2021. https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/In-The-News/2021/2020-devastated-US-mental-health-%E2%80%94-healing-must-be-a-priority?feed=In-the-news#:~:text=The%20National%20Alliance%20on%20Mental,in%20medical%20and%20disability%20expenses.
- “EFFECTS OF MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE & WHY IT’S IMPORTANT.” PAYCHEX.COM. APRIL 2023. https://www.paychex.com/articles/human-resources/workplace-mental-health-effects
- “5 ways to improve employee mental health.” APA.ORG. April 2022. HTTPS://WWW.APA.ORG/TOPICS/HEALTHY-WORKPLACES/IMPROVE-EMPLOYEE-MENTAL-HEALTH
- Brett Farmiole. “13 Strategies to Address Mental Health in the Workplace.” Shrm.org. April 2022. https://blog.shrm.org/blog/13-strategies-to-address-mental-health-in-the-workplace
- “Investing in treatment for depression and anxiety leads to fourfold return.” who.int. Accessed March 2023. https://www.who.int/news/item/13-04-2016-investing-in-treatment-for-depression-and-anxiety-leads-to-fourfold-return
- “Investing in Treatment.” Who.int.