Mental health is a topic no one in the workplace wants to talk about but no one can afford not to. Many companies lose revenue and productivity by not addressing mental health but the fear and shame surrounding the topic leads both employers and employees from speaking out about this very important issue. Mental heath disorders are much easier for employees to hide and employers to ignore since it may not have the physical symptoms that are apparent in illnesses like the flu or rheumatoid arthritis but that doesn’t take away from the validity of their mental ailments. Employees may also fear the stigma that is present in our society that tends to cast blame on the character of the patient instead of actual mental health disorder. Employers simply cannot afford to ignore mental illness any longer.
Writer Ryan Galloway discusses the impact mental health has on the modern workplace in his article “Workplace Mental Health: It Pays to be Proactive”. American businesses are estimated to lose between 80-100 billion dollars annually due to the implications of mental health problems in the workplace. Galloway sites a Harvard study where researchers found that depression is the most costly illness facing the American workforce. It is no surprise that companies are losing money in the way of lost productivity and ample days off to deal with the repercussions of depression and other mental illness. Both employers and employees need to know that mental health disorders are not like colds, one day off from work is not enough to “bounce back”. These types of ailments need to be addressed and managed.
Both Galloway and Author Amy Morin discuss how employers can address mental health in the workplace without violating their staff’s privacy. Sometimes employees don’t know that they are experiencing symptoms of a mental health problem and may simply think it’s a normal part of job stress. Even worse, these employees may blame themselves for feeling this way. But, employees aren’t doomed to suffer in silence and employers don’t have to continually lose time and money to mental health issues. Respectful and private employer intervention in employee mental health has been proven to work. Here are a few ways you can address the impact mental health has on your company:
- First, Human Resources should gather data on absenteeism and low productivity to see if your company may be experiencing an issue that needs to be addressed.
- Check with the provider of your company’s health insurance to see what is being offered for mental health services. If there is no or poor coverage of this area, you might want to find a cost effective way to switch to a plan that would provide more coverage.
- If your company has an EPA (Employee Assistance Program), make sure your employees know about it. Many companies will have this confidential source for employees to deal with problems affecting their health or well-being but often times employers forget to bring it to their staff’s attention.
- Offering private and free mental health screening with a qualified professional is a way to make sure employees are aware of the signs of symptoms of mental health problems while remaining completely confidential. This way the employee can tell if they are simply having a bad week or if they are experiencing something more severe.
- Incorporating wellness programs into the corporate culture can minimize the harmful effects of stress by encouraging exercise, positive interactions with coworkers and providing resources in the community for mental health services or programs.
Galloway notes that employers receive a significant return on investment when implementing mental wellness programs at work. Also, when employees with mental health disorders get the treatment they need, the majority reports higher rates of efficiency and job satisfaction. Your employees’ mental health is an under-used but crucial investment in your company’s future.
Throughout the month of May, RtoR.org will release a daily Post
of the Day in observance of Mental Health Awareness Month