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The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

Over the last few years, the subject of workplace mental health has become an area of great individual and professional concern. Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the CDC estimates that 40% of American adults have struggled with their mental health. 71% of adults reported having difficulty managing stress and feeling overwhelmed or ‘burnt-out’. Even when the issues that cause stress are not related to work, their mental health affects their job performance. 

Mental health in the workplace should be taken just as seriously as physical health. Employees are truly your most important asset. It’s crucial that organizations take steps to help limit stress, burnout, and other mental health issues.

QUOTE:  Depression has become one of America’s most serious problems, costly businesses over $51 billion in absenteeism and productivity lost.

 

Why It’s Important to Address Mental Health

Supporting workplace mental health shouldn’t be regarded as ‘optional’ any longer…but a real occupational necessity. Mental health and worker performance go hand-in-hand. As two parts of the same equation, it’s what can make an employee flourish. On the other hand, the adverse effect can happen without proper mental health support or development.

Emotional distress in the workplace is problematic for a number of reasons. Poor mental health at work can result in:

  • Disengaged employees
  • Poor communication
  • High turnover
  • Safety liabilities 
  • Poor job performance
  • Low productivity
  • Poor decision making
  • Decreased profits

QUOTE: Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to poor mental health.

  

Risks to Mental Health at Work

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), risks to mental health may involve job content or work schedule, unsafe workplace conditions, or lack of career opportunities and development. Other risks to mental health at work can include:

  • excessive workloads or work pace
  • understaffing
  • long or inflexible hours
  • limited support from colleagues
  • discrimination and exclusion
  • unclear job role
  • job insecurity
  • conflicting home/work demands

 

The Cost of Ignoring Employee Mental Health

$225 billion dollars a year is a staggering number. In fact, this is the economic cost of untreated mental illness and substance abuse. Most of the cost is due to poor work performance, absenteeism, and presenteeism. According to Inc., a struggling employee can cost an employer about $1,600 every year. 20% of the costs is attributed to absenteeism, while approximately 80% is due to presenteeism, or working while sick. Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and poor mental health in general.

 

Benefits of Good Mental Health at Work 

Improved Productivity

When people are physically fit, they tend to be healthier and more productive. The same is true regarding mental health. Improving the mental health of your workers can improve decision-making, thinking, confidence, and working relationships. Also, employees will feel that management is dedicated to their ongoing success on-the-job and in life.    

Bottomline…this all translates to increased productivity.

 

Reduces Costs and Risks

Supporting mental health is also a wise business decision. Investing in the mental health work programs can have a cost savings effect by reducing absenteeism, presenteeism, disability claims, and lost productivity. It also contributes to helping you meet workplace health and safety guidelines to reduce legal exposure.

 

How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

Offering resources is a key aspect of promoting mental health for employees who need support. Also, making clinical services and screening accessible is important for employees experiencing stress or burnout. 

The following are a few other strategies employers can use to promote mental well-being at work:

 

Engagement/Communication

Engagement and open communication with your employees can definitely have a positive effect on their mental well-being. Team leaders, managers, and supervisors should make continued efforts to improve engagement levels in order to form a relationship where workers feel comfortable expressing issues or concerns.

QUOTE: Engagement and open communication with your employees can have a positive effect on their mental well-being.

 

Training

Mental health is a complex subject. Both managers and employees can benefit from additional training about mental wellness. It’s important that leaders know how to identify mental health problems and how to address concerns with employees. Businesses can also host seminars on stress management and supervisor training on spotting warning signs of work stress and burnout.

 

Empowerment

Studies by the Mayo Clinic indicate that a perceived lack of control in the workplace can lead to stress and job burnout. By giving workers more control over their schedules, employers help provide a sense of empowerment and enable them to take on job responsibilities more effectively.   

 

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

An Employee Assistance Program assists employees with personal or work-related problems that may be hurting their job performance or well-being. An EAP is provided to employees at no cost and can assist with issues like relationship challenges, traumatic events, legal problems, wellness matters, and a broad range of other issues.

Also, the CDC advises offering clinical mental health screenings for workers and making sure that counseling is covered by your organization’s health insurance policies.

 

Create a Relaxation Space

Dedicated quiet spaces give employees the opportunity to unwind, relax, and decompress. It’s up to leaders and managers to establish a work culture that makes it acceptable to take breaks, use these spaces, and feel good about taking appropriate ‘me time’ during the day.

 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, work stress and mental health issues have risen dramatically. Citing multiple sources, we have found how mental health can affect your employees, your operation, and your bottomline. With understanding, training, and support, your company can strengthen the mental health of your workforce and help unlock their full potential. And your operation will run more efficiently as well.