Mental Health In The Workplace: The Coming Revolution
The conversation around mental health in the workplace has gained significant traction in recent years. There is a growing awareness to prioritize employee mental health. A recent report from McKinsey & Company found that mental health is becoming a key priority for organizations. Over 80% of executives surveyed ranked employee mental health as essential or very important, and around 50% labeled it as a top priority for the organization. On the other hand, the McKinsey study also highlighted that a similar number, i.e., 80% of employees, also report facing workplace stigma at work.
The coming revolution in mental health at work is not only a moral imperative but also makes business sense. Research by the ILO and the WHO has confirmed that companies lose billions of dollars each year due to work-related mental health issues. By focusing on employee mental health, organizations can address two concerns. They can not only promote employee well-being but also boost their bottom line.
The mental health revolution requires companies to consider mental health as a key consideration for improving business performance. Organizations must foster a culture where employees feel safe and supported in sharing their mental health concerns without fear of stigma or retaliation.
The good news is that many organizations are already prioritizing mental health in the workplace. Some companies offer mental health days, provide access to therapy sessions, and promote practices like meditation and yoga. The challenge now is to ensure that these efforts are sustained and impactful.
Economic Impact of Mental Health Issues
How much do mental health issues in employees cost a business? In billions would be the right answer. Challenges like long working hours, economic insecurity, and high-demanding jobs are often labeled as harmful as second-hand smoke. They are estimated to cost around $180 billion to the United States, resulting in 120,000 deaths. These issues impact individuals as much as businesses. Here is a broad explanation:
Economic Impact on Individuals
Mental health issues can lead to absenteeism, presenteeism (being present at work but not fully functioning), and disability leaves. All of these factors impact an individual's productivity, thus reducing their earning potential.
In the United States alone, mental health disorders are estimated to cost employers up to $193 billion annually in lost earnings, according to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
In the US, mental health treatment is often not covered by insurance or is subject to high out-of-pocket costs, leading many people to forego necessary treatment. This can lead to more significant health problems, resulting in increased healthcare costs over time.
Additionally, mental health issues can lead to disability and premature death, which can have a significant financial impact on individuals and their families. Disability benefits may not fully replace lost income, leading to financial strain, and premature death can result in lost earnings and increased expenses for funeral and end-of-life costs.
Economic Impact on Businesses
Mental health issues not only affect individuals, but they also have a significant economic impact on businesses. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. In the United States alone, the cost of untreated mental illness to employers is estimated to be between $79 and $105 billion per year.
There are several ways in which mental health issues can impact businesses economically. One major impact is lost productivity. Employees experiencing mental health issues may struggle to focus on work, have difficulty completing tasks, or miss work altogether. This can result in decreased productivity and increased absenteeism, which can ultimately affect a company's bottom line.
Mental health issues can also lead to increased healthcare costs for businesses. Employees with mental health issues may require additional medical treatment, therapy, or medication, which can add up in terms of healthcare expenses. In addition to healthcare costs, businesses may also face legal expenses related to mental health issues in the workplace. If an employee's mental health issues lead to a workplace incident or injury, the business may face legal action and expenses associated with defending against such claims.
Mental health issues can also impact a company's culture and reputation. If employees feel that their mental health needs are not being addressed or that there is a stigma around mental health in the workplace, they may become disengaged and less committed to their work. This can lead to high turnover rates and negative company culture, ultimately affecting a company's reputation among potential employees and customers.
Economic Impact on Society
According to a report by the Lancet Commission, mental health disorders are projected to cost the global economy $16 trillion by 2030. This is due to a combination of factors, including lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, and the impact of mental health issues on social welfare programs.
Despite the significant economic impact of mental health issues, many individuals do not seek treatment due to stigma, lack of access to care, or other barriers. According to a report by Mental Health America, 54.7% of 28 million adults with mental health issues do not receive treatment. This can lead to a cycle of lost productivity, increased healthcare costs, and reduced quality of life for individuals and their families.
Current State of Mental Health in the Workplace
Despite the growing importance of mental health in the workplace, the current state of employee mental health is concerning. In the United States alone, nearly 20% of adults experience mental illness each year. In most cases, depression and anxiety are common disorders.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the existing mental health crisis. According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than four in ten adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, up from one in ten in 2019.
Mental health issues can also impact workplace safety. For example, employees with untreated depression may be more prone to workplace accidents. On the other hand, those with anxiety may be more likely to experience panic attacks on the job.
Moreover, untreated mental health issues can have long-term consequences for employees' physical health. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, workers who experience high levels of job strain are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The study found that job strain was a more significant risk factor for heart disease than smoking or high blood pressure.
The impact of mental health on the workplace is not limited to economic costs. Mental health issues can also have a significant impact on company culture and morale. Feeling unsupported in their mental health struggles may, in turn, make employees isolated and disconnected from their colleagues.
Factors Contributing to the Mental Health Revolution
The coming revolution in mental health in the workplace is being driven by a range of factors. These include increased awareness and understanding of mental health issues, legal and regulatory changes, and advancements in technology and digital health. Here is a walkthrough:
Increased Awareness and Understanding
As society has become more open about mental health, employees are more willing to talk about mental health struggles and seek support from their employers. This increased awareness has boosted the importance of mental health in the workplace.
Employers are now more likely to prioritize employee mental health, recognizing that it is not only a moral imperative but also a business imperative. This recognition has led to a paradigm shift in the way employers approach mental health. Many have now started investing in mental health programs and resources for their employees.
Legal and Regulatory Changes
Governments around the world are increasingly recognizing the importance of mental health and implementing policies and regulations to address mental health in the workplace. For example, in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) both provide protections for employees with mental health conditions.
Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with mental health conditions. These include flexible work hours or modified job duties.
The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for their medical conditions or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
In the United Kingdom, the Health and Safety Executive has published guidelines for employers on how to manage and support employee mental health. The guidelines provide recommendations on a range of topics, including stress management, work-related stress, and risk assessment.
Advancements in Technology and Digital Health
Advancements in technology and digital health are also contributing to the revolution in mental health in the workplace. Digital health tools, such as mobile apps and online platforms, are making it easier for employees to access mental health resources and support.
For instance, mental health apps provide employees with tools and resources for managing their mental health. These apps can help employees track their moods, practice mindfulness, and access self-help resources.
The use of data analytics is also playing an increasingly important role in mental health in the workplace. Employers can use data analytics to identify patterns in employee mental health and implement targeted interventions to address specific issues.
Six Ways to Ensure that Mental Health Benefits Serve a Company
Ensuring that mental health benefits serve a company and its people is essential to create a positive and healthy workplace. This can result in increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and a positive impact on the company's reputation. So, here are six ways to ensure that mental health benefits work well for a business.
Measuring Behavioral Health
Measuring behavioral health can help companies identify areas where employees may need support. By monitoring employee engagement, performance, and attendance, companies can identify any potential issues that may indicate mental health problems.
According to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, 74% of employees want their employer to care about their mental health. As a result, an employee assistance program (EAP) has become especially important. It can provide employees with resources and support for mental health issues.
Further, measuring behavioral health can also help companies to evaluate the effectiveness of mental health programs and adjust them as necessary.
Prioritizing Behavioral Health
Making mental health a transparent priority shows employees that the company is committed to supporting their well-being. According to a study by the American Heart Association, employees who feel supported by their employer are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. This can result in increased productivity and lower rates of absenteeism.
Holding Leaders Accountable for Employee Mental Health
Holding leaders accountable for progress on employee mental health can help ensure that mental health is a priority for the entire organization. Leaders can help to create a culture of openness and support for mental health issues. They can do so by modeling healthy behaviors and encouraging others to seek help when needed.
For example, Deloitte has implemented a mental health strategy that includes training for managers and leaders, as well as resources for employees, to support mental health.
Exploring New Services Like Online Interventions
Exploring a range of new services, including online interventions, can help companies provide a wider range of mental health support options for employees. Online interventions, such as teletherapy and digital mental health platforms, can provide employees with convenient and accessible mental health support.
According to a study, 59% of employers now offer telemedicine services. One example of a company that has implemented online mental health services is Google. The company offers a confidential online counseling service for employees, which includes video and phone appointments with licensed mental health professionals.
Working closely with Health-Benefits Administrators
Working closely with health benefits administrators can help companies ensure that employees have adequate coverage for mental health services. By ensuring that mental health coverage is available and accessible, companies can help increase the likelihood that employees will seek and receive the support they need.
One example of a company that has worked closely with its health-benefits administrator is IBM. The company has implemented a mental health program that includes access to mental health resources and coverage for mental health services.
Considering On-site Mental Health Services
Providing on-site mental health services can help companies provide convenient and accessible mental health support for employees. On-site services, such as counseling and support groups, can help employees address mental health issues confidentially.
Benefits of the Mental Health Revolution
The revolution in mental health in the workplace is not just important for the well-being of employees but can also have significant benefits for employers. Here are some of the key benefits of the revolution:
Improved Employee Well-Being and Job Satisfaction
By prioritizing mental health in the workplace, employers can create a more supportive and inclusive environment for their employees. When employees feel that their mental health is valued and supported, they are more likely to have higher job satisfaction.
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 81% of employees say their employers' support for mental health will be an important consideration when looking for work in the future.
Increased Productivity and Efficiency
Mental health issues can have a significant impact on productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Employees who are struggling with mental health issues may have difficulty concentrating, may be more prone to making mistakes, and may take longer to complete tasks. By prioritizing mental health in the workplace and providing employees with resources and support, employers can help to reduce these negative impacts.
One study by Deloitte found that for every $1 invested in mental health treatment, employers can expect a return of $1.62 in improved productivity and reduced absenteeism. By investing in mental health resources and support, employers can see a positive impact on their bottom line.
Cost Savings for Employers
Untreated mental health issues can have a significant impact on healthcare costs for employers. Employees with untreated mental health issues may be more likely to seek medical treatment, take sick days, or require hospitalization. By prioritizing mental health in the workplace and providing employees with resources and support, employers can help to reduce these costs.
Improved Company Culture and Reputation
Prioritizing mental health in the workplace can also have a positive impact on company culture and reputation. By creating a supportive and inclusive environment for employees, employers can attract and retain top talent. Additionally, by promoting a culture of mental health and wellness, employers can improve their reputation as an employer of choice.
Companies that prioritize mental health in the workplace are also more likely to attract customers and clients who value mental health and wellness. This can lead to increased business and improved brand reputation.
Challenges to Promoting Mental Health
Despite the potential benefits of the revolution in mental health at work, there are still significant challenges and barriers that need to be addressed. These include resistance to change from employers and employees, limited access to mental health resources in certain industries and regions, and stigma and fear of discrimination.
Resistance to Change from Employers and Employees
One of the major challenges facing the implementation of mental health initiatives in the workplace is resistance to change. Many employers may be hesitant to invest in mental health resources, viewing it as an unnecessary expense or believing that mental health is not their responsibility. Employees may also be resistant to seeking help for mental health issues due to fear of stigma or negative consequences at work.
To address this challenge, leaders need to understand the benefits of mental health initiatives and communicate them effectively to employees. This includes highlighting the positive impact on employee well-being, job satisfaction, and productivity.
Employers should also consider training managers and supervisors to equip them with knowledge on mental health issues and create a culture of openness and support.
Limited Access to Mental Health Resources
Another significant barrier to the revolution in mental health at work is limited access to resources, particularly in certain industries and regions. For example, remote workers may face challenges accessing mental health services due to a lack of resources in their area.
To address this challenge, employers can consider offering telemedicine options or partnering with mental health providers who offer virtual services.
Stigma and Fear of Discrimination
Stigma and fear of discrimination remain significant barriers to the revolution in mental health at work. Many employees may fear that seeking help for mental health issues will lead to discrimination, negative career consequences, or even job loss. This can create a culture of silence and secrecy around mental health issues, making it more difficult to identify and address them.
To overcome this challenge, employers need to create a culture of openness and support around mental health. This includes implementing policies that protect employee privacy and prevent discrimination. Employers should also consider offering confidential mental health services to employees so that they can seek help without fear of negative consequences.
Employees also play a critical role in this movement by demanding attention to mental health and advocating for their own mental health needs. By speaking out and seeking support, employees can help reduce the stigma and fear surrounding mental health issues at work.
Policymakers can also play a critical role in supporting this movement by enacting legal and regulatory changes that prioritize mental health in the workplace. This can include mandating mental health training for managers and supervisors and providing incentives for companies that prioritize mental health.
Despite the progress made, there are still challenges and barriers that must be overcome to fully realize the benefits of prioritizing mental health in the workplace. Resistance to change from employers and employees and limited access to mental health resources must be addressed.
For more such interesting insights, read our blogs.