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mental health in the workplace

What is Mental Health in the Workplace?

Mental Health in the workplace is the emotional/psychological/and social health that employees share in their work environment. When an employee experiences mental health distress in the workplace their overall productivity, participation, and retention significantly decreases. The lack of productivity from that employee has a negative fiscal impact on the organization, their unwillingness to participate/communicate with their colleagues makes for slower results, and a hostile or stressful work environment can take a toll on other employees. One employee’s mental health can dramatically affect the mental health of other employees creating a negative snowball effect.

What do the Mental Health Rates in the Workplace Look Like Today?

One in five U.S. adults will experience mental illness each year, but only one in three will seek help and receive it. About 71% of American adults reported that they suffer from mental distress, anything from: headaches, depression, stress, and anxiety. What is mental health in the workplace? Untreated mental health has major financial repercussions on an organization and the global economy. The World Health Organization estimated that the global economy loses around $1 trillion a year from lost productivity due to employee mental illness. If the United States would combine medical health services with behavioral health services, the U.S. could save anywhere from $37.6-$67.8 billion a year. Most medical benefits provided by employers do not cover mental/behavioral health services, making it so employees must pay out of pocket for treatment (therapy, medication, and diagnosis). These costs are exponentially high, so most people avoid seeking treatment due to not being able to afford it up front. Since most employees lack the financial means for out-of-pocket treatment, they continue to suffer from their mental illness resulting in an organizational financial and production decline.

Why is it important for employers to care about their employees mental health?
An especially important reason for employers to be mindful of their employees mental health is the financial repercussions the business can face from employees with poor mental health. Anxiety and depression can directly influence an employee: motivation, dedication, retention, loyalty, and productivity. All of which need to be exceptional for a business to operate at its highest quality and potential.

Benefits of Supporting Employee Mental Health

• Increased productivity is a major benefit when supporting employee mental health. Almost 90% of employees that received treatment for their mental health showed a significant increase in their work performance and daily attendance.

• Increased retention is extremely important and has increased in companies that support their employees mental health. A report showed that almost 60% of employees who left their organization was primarily due to their poor mental health because of their position.

• Decreased health care and disability costs are particularly important because those adults who suffer from serious mental health illnesses are two times as likely to suffer from cardiovascular and metabolic disease. If the organization focuses on supporting the mental health of their employees, they can also significantly decrease the risk of other illnesses and diseases.

How Can You Support the Mental Health of Your Employees?
There are multiple things that employers can do to support the mental health of their employees.

Mental Health Training: It is important for managers to recognize and understand the signs of mental health distress in the workplace. Providing upper management training that helps them identify emotional distress, provides them with the steps to take when addressing these signs, and the proper procedures to eliminate stress and negativity in the workplace. Have upper management consider using mental health surveys to accurately gauge where their employees are with their mental distress and have them take appropriate action depending on the survey results.

Mental/Behavioral Health Coverage: Consider insurance coverage that includes treatment for mental and behavioral health illnesses. Be sure to research how many in-network psychologists and psychiatrists that are in your organization’s insurance plan. If your organization does not want or cannot provide mental/behavioral health insurance provide a health savings account to help your employee with their out-of-pocket costs so they are more willing to seek treatment.

Promote Well-Being: It is imperative that your organization provides as much flexibility as possible into each employee schedule. This allows them to take the time they need to decompress, seek mental health treatments, or even sleep. Encourage the use of vacation time, taking a step back from work and focusing on oneself and their family can give them the mental reset to come back to work with a fresh mind and drive to succeed once again.

Team Building and Staff Engagement: Providing time for your employees to get to know one another, and touch base on a social level can build a solid foundation for their working environment and it will also help them relieve stress. Allowing your employees to build a connection without the stress of work will alleviate any pent-up tension and can help resolve any ongoing issues. It is easy for an employee to feel isolated especially in a remote/hybrid working environment, which can cause mental health distress. Providing a time for fun and employee interaction could be just what that isolated employee needs to return to work feeling refreshed and connected with their colleagues.


How Can an Employee Support Mental Health in the Workplace?

Take part in organized activities and sponsored programs. Every employee should feel safe and encouraged to participate in all business functions, and to utilize any/all programs offered by their employer.

Be open to sharing any feelings, accomplishments, or downfalls. Every employee should be able to express themselves and feel as though they are important and heard. An employee should have an opportunity throughout the work week to be open and honest with their employer and colleagues.

They should practice coping skills throughout the day, and if they are unsure of these, there should be resources provided by the employer.
Use their lunch break no matter what, even if they do not choose to eat. Take the lunch time to mentally remove themselves from work and relax. Return to work refreshed and stress free and ready to effectively finish out the workday.
Engage socially with coworkers. Social engagement is key to eliminating the sense that one is isolated. This social interaction does not need to be long and drawn out, but something to make a social connection throughout the day.

Supporting Your Employee’s Mental Health Supports Your Organization
In the past few years mental health distress has skyrocketed due to the pandemic, causing a major decline in the workforce. Burnout, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression have been detrimental to the workforce across the globe, and it is our job to address these issues and provide all necessary trainings and treatment when possible. Supporting your employees mental health will not only be beneficial to their life but to the organization and those around them. The change must come from within, so it is the organization's obligation to initiate those changes. If the entire workforce implements these suggestions, we could see an enormous incline in employee retention and productivity along with economic growth.

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