It’s important to understand how mental health affects employees, and how companies can take care of their team. Workplace well-being 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 in the workplace, especially when you look at the facts:
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
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
Chronic stress can lead to depression
Depression costs American companies $44 billion in lost productivity
Whether in good times or stressful periods, it’s always important to focus on employees’ mental health at work.
Here are six helpful strategies to put into play:
1. Survey employees about mental health in the workplace
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 mental health at work. 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 reprioritize and put some projects on hold.
3. Take care of your employees by watching their 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 a game or just connecting over chat, having fun with coworkers 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% of people with depression are in the workforce — and not all of them are aware of their condition. Nevertheless, only 15% of employers train managers on how to recognize depression and intervene to help with employee care. Considering that treating depression can save companies $2,000 annually per employee (through improved health and productivity), learning to take care of your employees 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 and employee care
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.
Focusing on mental health in the workplace is critical to employee care. Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employee job performance, engagement and communication with coworkers as well as business results.