The ROIs and Whys of Investing in Employee Mental Well-being

When we’re happy, we’re more likely to do better in our day-to-day lives. This means that when we’re suffering, the way we perform also suffers—that includes our performance at work. It is well understood that employee mental well-being directly affects how employees think and feel about their job or organization. Sometimes, certain events can affect an employee’s mental well-being, which can, later on, impact their workplace. Other times, work environments, rather, can affect an employee’s mental health. Nonetheless, the relationship between employee well-being and the workplace can make or break employee performance at work.


The problem

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental illnesses can affect employees to a great extent. Naturally, they can negatively influence job performance and productivity, but mental illnesses can also affect employee communication with other colleagues and how they physically function every day.

The CDC reports that during the 3 years after an employee receives an initial health risk assessment, employees at high risk of depression garnered the highest in terms of health care costs. Depression can be linked to higher rates of disability and unemployment, with it interfering with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time. In addition, it can reduce problem-solving ability by 35%. It is estimated that around 200 million workdays are lost to depression in the United States, amounting to billions of dollars in lost productivity.

The proof is in the numbers, yet many employees who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses are unlikely to seek help. Only 57% of employees who report moderate depression and 40% of employees who report severe depression manage to seek treatment to control their symptoms. Why is this so?

In 2019, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found that mental health stigma remains a major challenge in the workplace. It was observed that workers were hesitant to discuss mental health issues at their jobs in fear of retaliation or being fired if they sought aid. It was ascertained that about one in four workers said they would not know where to turn for mental health help. With this being such a common struggle in the workplace, these statistics must be changed.


The solution

The first step towards the right direction involves awareness about the seriousness of mental health and stress management. When combined with physical health interventions, workplace mental health promotion programs have proven to be successful. The CDC even affirms that the workplace is an optimal setting to create a culture of health. Not only are there communication structures and social support networks already in place, but there are also incentives employers can offer to reinforce healthy behaviors. Employers also have the data and resources to track the progress of their employees.

Investing in employee well-being can be done in several ways. One of the main things that companies can do is provide outsourced mental health wellness programs to their employees, management, and HR professionals. Aside from giving employees the communication skills of how to address their mental health issues by availing company-provided resources, managers would also be equipped with the skills and knowledge that will allow them to support and help employees for both the well-being of the person needing help and the well-being of everyone in the workplace.

Another way for employers to invest in employee well-being is to minimize burnout can be found in the  workplace. When an employee encounters emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion due to excessive and prolonged stress, they are likely to become incapable of meeting the demands of their job due to being overwhelmed. By looking out for the most common signs of work burnout in their specific workplaces, employers can take it upon themselves to lessen the likelihood of these situations and help prevent employees from becoming overburdened. Managers may have direct visibility over their direct reports through their day-to-day interactions, hence they are accountable to look out for possible signs of employee burnout.


Above everything else, mental health policies should be made clear to employees. Letting employees know that their mental health is important and that there are adequate resources present for them at all times is a vital thing to do. The more discussions and conversations on mental wellness take place, the less mental health stigma employees will hold around mental health in the workplace. Some practical suggestions include:

  • Managers can insert mental health check-ins during meetings or at the start of the day, even via chat or a poll
  • Managers may schedule regular one-on-one conversations with their direct reports, not just talking about performance, but maybe even issues at work and even personal.
  • Leadership team being open to their own mental health concerns may be a good “lead-by-example” method to normalize talking about mental health as the company’s culture.


The returns on investment

When we are healthy, both physically and mentally, we tend to be happier. Being mentally fit entails improved mental resilience, allowing for better decision-making, workflow, and relationships at work. The bottom line is that happier employees are more productive and engaged in their jobs. Happier employees will find themselves excelling at what they do and enjoying it at the same time, overall helping sustain high employee morale and improving employee retention and a company's performance as a whole.

Promoting mental health is also profitable to the financial side of businesses. Investing in mentally healthy employees can diminish absenteeism and presenteeism, which both affect work productivity. By fostering mental wellness among employees, companies are improving employee health behaviors and lessening elevated health risks. Healthy behaviors lead to lower health risks, and thus, fewer health care costs. In the case of having employees who are hired and trained but can no longer do their jobs, this also decreases the chances of having to spend additional time and money needed to find, onboard, and train new employees.

Lacking sufficient mental health resources in the workplace can cost businesses a great amount of money as well as their best employees. Still, mental health programs and initiatives should not be pursued by owners solely for profit. By creating a worksite culture of mental strength, companies can enrich the lives of their employees. Ultimately, the motivation and intent of these programs should remain centered on the best interest and welfare of employees. With the kind of data, technology, and resources that are available given this day and age, there's no reason for employers to not secure the wellness as well as the success of their companies.

Sources:

American Psychiatric Association. (2020). Stigma and Discrimination. Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Mental Health in the Workplace. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html

Spring Health. (2021, January 15). The importance of mental health for workplace wellness. Retrieved from: https://www.springhealth.com/importance-of-mental-health-workplace-wellness/


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