Erik Pham, the founder of health channela health and wellness website that empowers people to lead healthier lives.
Mental health is no longer something that companies can leave to their employees to prioritize. Job satisfaction, work-life balance, employee culture, and communication and finances have been shown to have a direct impact on individual health. Accordingly, if an employee’s health deteriorates, so does their productivity level. It is my belief as the founder of a health and wellness publisher that companies should shift their mindset from overworked employees for faster results to a mindset of balance and wellness to improve their employees’ lives and their profits.
Mental health in the workplace: what reports show
As mental health awareness grows, depression, anxiety and mood disorders continue to increase at a dizzying rate. Currently, 1 in 5 American adults gets a mental illness every year. In addition, the global societal impact of poor mental health is predicted to reach: $6 trillion by 2030.
Currently, more workers are absent due to stress and anxiety than due to physical injury or illness. People with depression say they can only work at 70% of their optimal performance, and more 21 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2020. Between 50% and 60% of adults with mental illness receive no treatment, leading to higher rates of illness and loss of productivity.
Fortunately, about 86% of workers treated for depression feel an improvement in their job performance and satisfaction. Treatment can also help reduce both absenteeism and presenteeism by up to 60%.
What employees want from employers
Good health can be highly dependent on one’s job. I believe that a good work-life balance can be essential to helping employees have the time and resources to meet their basic physical and emotional needs. According to Biz Report, employees want their employers to both recognize and implement strategies to improve overall health such as flexible working hours, remote work opportunities, autonomy (over decisions, workload and scheduling), appreciation and recognition, mental health benefits, and more.
When applying for work, more than 80% of people say the company’s mental health culture and benefits will drive their decision to work there. Based on this, you could say that workplace health has become a priority, and the companies participating in this change can reap the rewards.
Five ways employers can tackle and improve mental health in the workplace
Provide mental and physical health benefits. The statistics prove that putting mental health first benefits the employee, employer and society. Naturally, mental health is directly linked to physical well-being, so I believe an integrated approach is key. Some options employers can invest in to promote overall health:
• Designating meditation and rest areas.
• Offering free fitness classes in the office.
• Create practice groups.
• Delivering therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction programs (MBSR).
• Offering free or discounted mental wellness apps.
Ensure regular check-ins and open communication. Studies show that the quality of relationships and openness in communication directly affect productivity and mental health. Knowing this, I encourage employers to show vulnerability and create a safe space for employees to voice their concerns and seek treatment. Other strategies for opening communication include:
• Making employee satisfaction surveys.
• Have scheduled check-ins with management and mental health professionals.
• Make employees comfortable to talk about their dissatisfaction by putting their feedback and suggestions in place.
Stimulate autonomy and build a flexible workplace. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, almost half of employees who should not be involved in decisions feel more stress in the workplace. Some ways to encourage autonomy and flexibility are:
• Let employees create their own schedules.
• Provide remote working options.
• Try out four-day work weeks.
• Involve employees in decisions that affect them directly.
• Ask for their opinion and congratulate them on a job well done.
• Scheduling employee appreciation events.
Reduce the workload and have employees remove the plug from the socket. According to a 2021 report from Indeed, since Covid, more than 50% of workers say they work longer hours and nearly 30% said they can never unplug. In the same report, millennials claimed that lack of free time is one of the biggest causes of burnout, along with financial stress and lack of paid time off. With these findings, there is no doubt that reducing employee burnout can benefit both the company and employee health. Some methods you can use to reduce burnout include:
• Set up schedules where emails can be sent and received only during working hours.
• Discourage overtime.
• Hiring more employees to reduce workload.
• Encourage holidays and increase paid days off.
• Schedule regular surveys to evaluate burnout rates.
Implement education and training. Even when services are offered, people want in-office mental health training. The benefits you offer should be promoted and easy to use so that they are not ignored. Apply education at every management and employee level so that everyone is aware of their options. Without regular training and education in the office, employees may not be aware of their options or feel discouraged from taking action.
Mental health problems and employee burnout are steadily increasing and both companies and individuals are being severely affected. The costs of lost productivity and health services are reaching staggering amounts and companies need to take action to promote health and wellness in the workplace. Creating an integrated approach to in- and out-of-office benefits, targeting both physical and mental health, may be the best opportunity to improve the productivity and overall well-being of the individual.