For the average adult in the US, spending a third of their lives in the workplace is just a fact. So it’s no wonder the state of employees’ mental health is largely tied to their jobs, especially within a post-pandemic landscape. A new report by Mental Health America, found that 4 in 5 employees report that workplace stress affects their relationships with friends, family, and coworkers.
If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that mental wellness matters. Thankfully, mental health topics are being more openly discussed, which has given rise to related employee benefits like meditation apps, online counseling, and self-care days. If you’re still on the fence about whether these benefits are worth the investment, here are six advantages that come with addressing mental health issues in the workplace:
Increases Employee Productivity
Employees with conditions like depression or anxiety aren’t only struggling mentally — they feel it on an emotional and physical level as well. This makes it incredibly challenging to get out of bed each day, focus on work, and build relationships with coworkers. As a result, the World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
However, if you give employees the tools they need to manage their mental health conditions better, it makes a difference in both their wellbeing and performance. Whether it’s by offering counseling services, or providing access to meditation apps, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or behavioral health resources, empowers employees to care for themselves, disconnect for a bit, help them reset, and produce better work.
Saves Company Healthcare Costs
It’s not surprising to hear that mental health issues are expensive. Not only because of the costs related to lost productivity, but also due to treatments, medications, and doctor’s visits employees need to manage their mental health disorder. It’s worth noting that many people with mental health disorders likely also require care for other physical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, and musculoskeletal disorders.
Investing in the wellbeing of employees can drastically reduce these costs. Research has found that for every $1 put into treatment for common mental disorders, there’s a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. Not to mention that proper mental health management could reduce the number of doctor’s visits or prescription medications needed in the future.
It’s an incredibly isolating experience for employees to go through mental health struggles alone, especially during a global health crisis. The experience is made worse when working at a company that isn’t accommodating of mental health needs. That’s why offering benefits and — more importantly — creating a company culture where it’s OK to talk about these issues is such a big deal. Taking these steps will also show employees that you’re invested in their wellbeing, which will lead to a noticeable boost in morale, loyalty, and overall happiness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year, at a cost of $17 billion to $44 billion to employers. Employees may be debilitated by their condition, or they may feel overwhelmed from having to juggle their work and mental health issues. Regardless of the reason, absenteeism is a big deal and costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees.
But it’s not just the financial impact that’s harmful. Absenteeism can create a vicious cycle: the more days of work an employee misses, the more overwhelmed they feel. This can worsen their condition until they find a better way to manage their mental health issues. Proactively addressing this issue can lower the harmful effects that come with absenteeism.
Since the onset of the pandemic, many companies continue to invest in benefits focused on the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees. If you’re one of the few that hasn’t added mental health support to your benefits packages, you’ll likely lose the war for talent and see employee attrition rates increase. Consider this: Why should an employee stay at an organization that doesn’t support their mental and physical health — especially when there are so many other companies that will?
On the flip side, being one of the companies that offers impactful mental health benefits will bolster your recruiting efforts. It'll also keep your existing employees happy and more likely to stay at the organization.
Decreases Number of Accidents in Manual Positions
Finally, mental health isn’t only an issue among in-office and remote workers. It also affects those in manual roles, such as construction or manufacturing. While people are aware of the physical impact manual laborers deal with, mental health issues aren’t as frequently discussed, even Between the pandemic, staffing shortages, and economic fallout, It’s reported that 83% of construction workers have struggled with a mental health issue.
Given that there’s a strong link between your mental wellbeing and physical health, this is an important issue that companies need to address. A manual worker who’s depressed, losing sleep, or abusing substances is much more likely to get hurt on the job than someone who is mentally well. Finding ways for these workers to access the care they need can decrease accident rates and improve their overall wellbeing.
While it’s great to see progress around mental health in the workplace, there’s still more to be done. Many employees still don’t feel comfortable raising mental health issues with their managers. This indicates that companies should normalize these tough conversations, to help create a safe and supportive environment. We encourage all employers to look into the growing number of mental health benefits that are available for their employees.