From the Blog

6 ways to make mental health a workplace priority

Workplace wellness isn’t just about physical well-being – nutrition, exercise, healthy biometrics, quality sleep. It’s much more holistic and should include a focus on mental health, especially when you look at the facts:

  • 1 in 5 Americans had a diagnosable mental health condition in the last year and many others are at risk (Mental Health America)

  • For almost 20 years, stress-related issues in the workplace have been on the rise and every year, mental illness and substance abuse cost employers an estimated $80 to $100 billion in direct costs (Mental Health America)

  • Chronic stress can lead to depression (American Psychological Association)

  • Depression costs American companies $44 billion in lost productivity (National Institute of Mental Health)

Since May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, now is a great time to focus on your employees’ mental well-being. Here are five helpful strategies to put into play:

1. Take a survey.

Many companies implement stress management programs – and that’s a good start. But reach out to employees (read: survey) about what stresses them out at work.

2. Help employees reduce – not just manage – stress.

Once you’ve evaluated the main stressors of your population, make it a priority to address them. If flexible hours or telecommuting will help people juggle work and life, get on it. If resources are an issue, staff up, contract out, add budget or re-prioritize and put some projects on hold.

3. Watch the work hours.

While burning the midnight oil seems noble and can get results in the short-term, the long-term result is burnout. People need to rest, recharge and connect with loved ones to stay mentally sound, so make sure long hours aren’t a regular occurrence.

4. Make time for fun and humor.

Whether it’s playing ping-pong, having a rubber chicken bowling tournament in the hall or just cracking up over lunch, having fun at work increases productivity and builds trust. It also relieves stress by forcing a cognitive shift in how stressors are viewed and creates a positive emotional response. Plus, laughter triggers relaxation, thus reducing stress all on its own.

5. Keep an eye out for depression.

According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, 70 percent of people with depression are in the workforce – and not all of them are aware of their condition. Nevertheless, only 15 percent of employers train managers on how to recognize depression and intervene to help their employees. Considering that treating depression can save companies $2,000 annually per employee (through improved health and productivity), this sort of training is well worth it – not just from a cost perspective, but to help employees stay healthy and happy. For more information, contact Mental Health America or the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health.

6. Provide support for employees.

Make sure your company provides adequate benefit coverage for mental health services – from individual and couples counseling to group therapy. If you don’t already, offer an Employee Assistance Program that provides access to qualified mental health therapists and a variety of services to help employees manage their lives – like childcare, housecleaning, and even running errands.