Mental Health in the Workplace
Dollars and Cents
Protecting your bottom line shouldn’t be the only reason for promoting a mentally healthy workplace, but it’s worth looking at how much it can influence a business. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. In 2019, the American Heart Association’s CEO Roundtable released a report called “Mental Health: A Workforce Crisis” which found that the cost of not doing anything was far greater than the costs of promoting effective mental wellness. The WHO’s findings agree with this, stating “For every US$ 1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity.” Mental health is a truly powerful component of a healthy business. Just think, if poor mental health can impact a company this much, imagine how much more the impact is felt on the person afflicted.
Start at the Top
Discussing mental health is a difficult task for most. Many lack the vocabulary to discuss how they’re feeling, and worry that speaking up will negatively affect their employment. Put these fears to rest by creating an open environment for discussion. Talk about your own mental health experience and encourage other leadership positions to do so as well. This will help set the tone for the entire company and quell the stigma against such discussions. Providing mental health courses to managers is a great way to jumpstart these conversations and provide training in recognizing mental health warning signs.
Repeat Your Resources
There are many great resources companies can provide to help aid in mental health. Depending on the size of your company you could provide free therapy sessions, retreats, stress management programs, meditation/yoga classes, access to meditation apps, online resources, employee assistance programs, etc. There are many mental health programs out there tailored for businesses. Start with your company’s healthcare provider, see what they offer, and build from there. Whatever resources you establish, make sure they are promoted often. Instead of simply tacking a flyer up in the breakroom, send out regular emails promoting these benefits. Discuss them at appropriate meetings, and stress the confidentiality of programs like employee assistance and therapy sessions. This is again to counter the stigma and shame many people feel when reaching out for help. By encouraging people to use these resources and keeping them in the forefront, they’ll be much more effective.
Live a Little
We all have lives outside of work. Having a good work balance is key to keeping stress levels down. It’s also crucial to make sure you’re paying employees enough to actually enjoy themselves outside of work. If your full-time employees are having to work extra jobs to make ends meet, they’re going to be constantly burning themselves out. Make sure you’re not falling behind the living wage in your area. People will be able to focus a lot better when they’re not agonizing about how to pay rent.
Other ways to promote healthy lives outside of work are to encourage vacation day usage and to provide places where employees can bond. These places could be social events, outings, or even employee chat rooms. Utilizing a corporate peer-to-peer platform also helps to bond employees together and keep them engaged on a daily/weekly basis. (www.peerceive.com)
An Apple A Day
By implementing these practices, employees are much more likely to receive help when they need it - not when they’ve gotten to crisis mode. It goes beyond the preaching of “self care” and shows that they are cared about. By caring for your employee’s mental wellbeing, you’ll be creating a company people would love to work for.