By Jim Molis
Workplace mental health issues pose problems for employers and employees alike. If a worker struggles with something like anxiety or depression, it could also affect their physical health — which could lead to a decline in performance. The resulting ripples could drag down the productivity of coworkers and the profitability of the business.
- 76% of U.S. workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition and 84% said their workplace conditions had contributed to at least one mental health challenge. (Mind Share Partners: 2021 Mental Health at Work Report)
- 40% of business leaders say they have experienced decreased revenue due to workplace mental health issues and 39% say they have had profitability decrease. (Paychex: Effects of Mental Health and Why it’s Important in the Workplace)
- Additional negative impacts, business leaders say, have included loss of customers (30%) and diminished output (26%). (Paychex: Effects of Mental Health and Why it’s Important in the Workplace)
- 81% of workers reported that they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health in the future. (American Psychological Association: 2022 Work and Well-being Survey results)
Help your employees and your business by supporting mental health in the workplace in four key ways.
1. Raise awareness of mental health in the workplace.
Employees don’t always know that it’s OK not to be OK. Stigmas around mental health may linger in some workplaces or among individual employees. Acknowledging that mental health is a real issue worth discussing and caring about is crucial in helping employees get the help they need.
Teaching leaders how to talk about mental health in the workplace is vital in raising awareness and increasing understanding. Leaders should talk about mental health like they would physical health, for example, and approach employee health holistically.
Educating employees in general is also helpful in improving mental health in your company, particularly in identifying workers who may need assistance. For example, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s Mental Health First Aid at Work training program teaches participants how to notice and support someone with a mental health or substance use issue, how to manage a crisis in a work environment and how to connect employees with appropriate work- and community-based resources.
2. Create a mentally healthy environment.
Long hours. Repetitive tasks. Mundane work. The workplace threats to mental health are numerous. Therefore, cultivating a workplace in which employees can thrive — and tell you when they aren’t — is imperative.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-being offers a foundation that employers can build upon to improve workplace mental health and well-being. The framework includes five “essential” elements based on human needs. Each element is then broken into key components.
For example, the first element — protection from harm — includes human needs for safety and security, as demonstrated by protecting workers from physical and non-physical harm and ensuring they feel secure financially and in their jobs.
Key components in this first element include prioritizing physical and psychological safety, enabling adequate rest and implementing policies and programs for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.
3. Provide support and access to mental health services.
From flexible work arrangements to workplace awards to employee assistance programs (EAPs), you can support mental health by supporting your team. Employees worry less when they have benefits like health insurance, retirement plans and other perks. And the intangible benefits that such efforts can yield, like strong self-worth, a sense of purpose and peace of mind go far.
To this end, the World Health Organization’s workplace mental health tips for employers, include recommendations such as adapting working environments to workers’ capacities, needs and preferences. Adaptations may include providing extra time to complete tasks and offering time off for mental health care.
WHO also suggests embedding mental health into your occupational safety and health systems and engaging workers, their representatives and people with lived experience when making decisions about mental health at work.
4. Offer mental health care.
Assessing mental health is the first step to improving it, and you can help your employees start properly by facilitating access to an EAP or a professional mental health assessment. EAPs can also provide ongoing support to help employees maintain mental health.
Assessments enable employees to identify issues and assist them in getting the right care to ensure the best possible outcomes. Getting assessment results quickly and scheduling first treatments promptly are essential to improving mental health.
Mentavi Health, for example, offers 24/7 access to asynchronous assessments online from anywhere. A network of licensed psychologists evaluates assessments across all 50 states, and thousands of healthcare providers nationwide have accepted and provided treatment based on these assessments.
The Mentavi Health assessment currently screens for ADHD, anxiety and depression, and will soon add other conditions like binge eating disorder and OCD.
Workplace mental health is important to everyone. By supporting mental health in the workplace, you’ll be helping your employees — and your business.