The importance of mental health in the workplace has never been more pronounced than it is now. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), fifteen percent of working-age adults worldwide have mental disorders. That means four hundred and ninety-eight million people struggle daily with specific mental disorders. Given that mental well-being is such a critical component of population health, it’s important for employers to include mental health in the pursuit of wellness initiatives and offer wellness programs that promote better population health outcomes.
Employees often struggle with common mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and burnout. These can severely impact their job performance and work-life balance, leading to increased absenteeism rates and low productivity. Of note, employees in certain occupations have a higher risk of developing mental health issues than others. Investing in employees’ mental well-being can materially benefit companies through lower healthcare costs and increased revenue from higher productivity.
Discussing employee mental health remains a sensitive issue. This article will highlight practical solutions that companies can use to discreetly approach and promote employee mental health.
Read on if you want to support your employees and boost their self-esteem while providing flexible health benefits they actually love.
- What Does Mental Health in the Workplace Encompass?
- What are 3 reasons why Mental Health is Important?
- Why is Mental Health Important in the Workplace?
- Why is Mental Health in the Workplace so Important Right Now?
- What are Three benefits of Promoting a Mentally Healthy Workplace?
- How do you Encourage Employees to Use Mental Health Benefits?
- How Can You Reimburse Employees for Mental Health expenses?
What Does Mental Health in the Workplace Encompass?
The average person spends much of their life at work. As such, building a company culture supportive of employee mental health is critical. Mental health in the workplace refers to the psychological wellness of employees within a work environment. It consists of various psychological conditions affecting individuals ranging from mild to severe mental health issues.
In recent years, research has highlighted the harmful effects of poor mental health on employees’ performance and productivity. The WHO’s June 2022 World Mental Health Report offers employers helpful guidelines for providing mental health support, including intervention recommendations and rehabilitation of employees with severe mental health issues.
There are many possible causes of mental health issues. These include, but are not limited to:
- Stress: sustained work-related stress contributes to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and burnout. Common causes of work-related stress include:
- Tight deadlines
- Difficult bosses/supervisors
- Long or unreasonable hours
- Inflexible working conditions
- Excessive workloads
- Job Insecurity
- Lack of support or job recognition: employees who feel unsupported or undervalued by their employer, superiors, or colleagues may feel isolated. These individuals are more likely to develop mental health issues than employees with good workplace relationships and who regularly receive recognition for their work.
- Organization or workplace culture: work-related harassment and other psychological violence create negative experiences for employees and are a major cause of mental health issues in the workplace. These include but are not limited to:
- Discrimination or exclusion
- Verbal abuse
- Unsafe working conditions
- Ongoing mental health issues: employees with pre-existing mental health conditions tend to succumb to work-related stress factors faster than those without pre-existing mental health issues.
- Poor work-life balance: conflicting home/work demands often sap employees of their energy and time required for rest and leisure, resulting in poor work-life balance.
- Work-related accidents: trauma from workplace accidents or distressing workplace incidents can harm employees’ mental health. Common mental health issues arising from traumatic events in the workplace include flashbacks and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Employers are responsible for ensuring employees’ mental health safety at the workplace. HR teams can implement action plans to mitigate workplace mental health risks, including strategies supporting employees with mental health conditions.
What are 3 reasons why Mental Health is Important?
Mental health is considered one of today’s most pressing population health issues. It combines an individual’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions. It shapes how people relate with each other, their lifestyle choices, and their reactions to the events around them.
An individual’s mental health can change significantly over a lifetime. Thus, companies must adopt policies to protect their employee’s social and psychological welfare. But how important are your employee’s mental health?
Below are three reasons why mental health is important.
There is a close relationship between mental health and physical health.
Taking care of one’s physical and mental health is important because both perform vital functions in ensuring an individual’s overall well-being. It is well known that people with mental issues like anxiety and depression find it difficult to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors like physical exercise and other physical social engagements. Additionally, individuals suffering from depression have a higher risk of developing long-lasting physical health issues like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. And they may refuse to get medical intervention for their physical health challenges. Conversely, individuals with physical health issues find it challenging to receive treatment for their mental health conditions. Supporting employees’ mental health can help prevent exacerbating chronic illnesses, which may necessitate costly interventions down the line.
Mental health determines the quality of personal relationships.
There is a significant connection between mental health and interpersonal relationships. Someone with poor mental health will encounter difficulties establishing and maintaining social relationships. In the workplace, employees with mental issues often struggle with isolation and loneliness. They may have problems communicating and developing relationships with their co-workers or team members. Workplaces that promote mental health can help them cultivate healthy relationships by enabling effective communication and reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.
Mental health determines overall life quality.
An Individuals’ mental health plays a significant role in their chances of success and fulfillment. Having good mental health promotes an individual’s self-esteem, leading to the following results:
- A positive outlook regarding life goals and maximizing potential
- An ability to engage in professional tasks and maximize potential
- An ability to successfully manage difficult situations
- A high degree of happiness and contentment
- An ability to practice self-care and seek professional help
- Engaging in meaningful activities and contributing to family and the community
Why is Mental Health Important in the Workplace?
Mental wellness in the workplace is a crucial factor when measuring employee performance and engagement levels. In 2016, seventy-one percent of American adults reported feeling stress symptoms like anxiety or headache, indications of work-related mental health problems. The cost of mental health treatment can impact profits, with employers spending an estimated $225.8 billion annually on employee mental health and substance abuse issues.
Addressing mental health conditions in the workplace involves implementing wellness solutions prioritizing support and treatment for employees with mental health disorders. HR managers must design employee assistance programs that promote employees’ mental well-being by identifying early signs of mental breakdown in at-risk workers, linking them to treatment and resources providing counseling and other forms of support.
A negative mental health workplace culture creates a toxic work environment with the following consequences:
- Poor employee performance and productivity
- Employee disengagement
- High absenteeism rates
- High employee turnover
- Poor communication among coworkers, frequent conflict, and poor decision-making
- Safety issues and expensive litigations result in huge liabilities or fines
- Reduced profits
Why is Mental Health in the Workplace so Important Right Now?
The adverse psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to decimate workplaces across the United States several months after the easing of mandatory lockdown restrictions, which upended the ordinary daily lives of millions of employees.
30% of employees experiencing mild to moderate emotional crises have problems confiding in colleagues and often seek mental health advice and treatment outside of work. Employees are reluctant to discuss their mental health issues with colleagues because of the stigma and fear of losing their jobs once their supervisors know about their mental health challenges.
There are several reasons why employers must make mental health in the workplace an urgent priority. These include:
Increased levels of adverse psychological behavior:
Reports indicate that employees’ post-pandemic negative mental health behavior doubled compared to pre-pandemic figures. Figures from the CDC reveal the percentage of adults receiving mental health treatment increased by 2.4% between 2019 and 2021.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 41% of American adults have experienced significant psychological distress. According to a Pew Research Center report, 58% of young adults between 18 and 29 suffered severe mental distress between March 2020 and September 2022. A third of American adults experience the following psychological symptoms:
- Emotional distress
- Moderate depression or severe depression
- Relationship challenges
Financial costs of negative psychological behavior.
Healthcare experts consider mental health treatment to be among the highest healthcare costs in the United States. Employers and businesses pay a heavy price for employee mental disorder treatments. In 2020, the cost of employee mental health treatments rose from 6.8% in 2013 to an unprecedented high of 8.2%. The average annual cost for treating employees with pre-existing mental disorders increased by 3% annually within the same period, with a 20% cumulative increase. And outpatient spending increased by 37% between 2013 and 2020. In 2020 alone, employer and employee healthcare plans spent around $77 billion on mental health treatments, including prescriptions.
Untreated symptoms of mental health issues have a devastating effect on employees’ job performance and satisfaction. Employee productivity has declined since 2022 when the annual average productivity fell by 1.7%, the biggest decline since 1974. According to the Department of Labor figures, productivity in the first quarter of 2023 decreased by the largest margin in seventy-five years.
Work-related psychological stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic are the primary culprit for the abysmal drop in employee productivity. Also, employees had to survive the emotional burden of numerous mandatory restrictions limiting activities like work, school, and other social interactions that took a heavy toll on their mental well-being.
Fortunately, more employers are acknowledging the importance of mental health in the workplace. A National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions study reports that 53% of employers are considering unique emotional and workplace mental health benefits due to the psychological effects of the coronavirus epidemic on their employees. A Harris Poll survey reveals 23% of employees admitted their employer introduced new mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies must realize the importance of mental health in the workplace – that it isn’t only an employee issue. Its negative financial consequences can be extensive unless they provide essential support and resources. By adopting mental wellness strategies, employers can encourage positive conversations and eliminate the stigma surrounding emotional and mental disorders. And at the same time, it improves employee engagement and productivity levels.
What are Three benefits of Promoting a Mentally Healthy Workplace?
Workplace-related mental distress can occur anytime, often with minimal warning signs. Hence, it’s in the interest of companies to promote initiatives to improve employee mental well-being and provide preemptive support for individuals who require therapy, counseling, or work flexibility to manage their psychological issues.
Employers can reap the following benefits by promoting a mentally healthy workplace:
- Healthy workplace culture and low employee turnover. Employees thrive in a positive workplace environment. By promoting mental health at work, employers encourage inclusivity, openness, and a commitment to the core company values. Employer-sponsored programs, including wellness programs supporting mental health concerns, offer stress management resources that mitigate employee mental illnesses resulting in a conflict-free work environment.
- Financial savings through reduced healthcare costs. Employers see significant cost savings when they promote workplace wellness programs that support mental health. Treatment for mental illnesses ranks among the highest health care costs in the United States. Employee assistance programs that promote mental well-being allow workers experiencing mental crises to seek early treatment and receive counseling before their condition degenerates into full-blown mental health problems that may require intensive and expensive treatments.
- Improved productivity. Mentally healthier employees tend to be more productive and enjoy overall job satisfaction than employees in a poor mental state. When companies commit resources to create a mentally healthy workspace, employees display excellent decision-making skills, good workplace communication, and top-notch engagement resulting in increased productivity.
How do you Encourage Employees to Use Mental Health Benefits?
Companies have increasingly recognized the importance of mental health in the workplace, making efforts to create a positive work culture and supporting employees struggling with adverse mental health symptoms through wellness solutions and mental health resources.
HR teams that design and implement resources supporting mental health must ensure employees are aware of their existence and set up excellent communication channels providing information on how employees can access and use these programs.
Companies can encourage their employees to utilize mental health programs in the following ways:
- Promote a culture of openness and engagement, destigmatizing mental health problems and encouraging employees to discuss their emotional issues and seek mental care by utilizing the resources provided by the company.
- Training selected employees and managers to identify signs of an employee going through a mental crisis and swiftly but discreetly addressing the person’s mental health concerns.
- Providing employees with personalized communication channels through email newsletters, company chat forums, and regular employee bulletins highlighting the benefits of the employee mental health resources available.
- Ensure employees can easily access mental health resources with a confidentiality guarantee and ease of use. Examples include offering online therapy sessions or providing mental well-being apps that employees can download and access on their mobile devices.
- Offer additional incentives to encourage employees unwilling to seek mental health help through conventional channels. Companies can provide additional support by offering dedicated quiet spaces to allow employees to meditate and relax, Employee Assistance Programs to assist with counseling services, and company-sponsored seminars that promote mental well-being and stress management.
How Can You Reimburse Employees for Mental Health expenses?
Employers often use reimbursement arrangements to cover health care costs. However, the process may vary depending on the company. The reimbursement process for health care costs is similar.
You can reimburse our employee’s mental health expenses through the following methods:
- Health insurance: company health insurance plans may cover the cost of services like mental health therapy and counseling.
- Employee Assistance Programs: may cover costs for a few mental health referral services like private counseling.
- Employer reimbursement program: mental health-specific company-sponsored reimbursement programs may reimburse employees for certain mental health services.
Recognizing the importance of mental health in the workplace is the first step toward creating an open workplace culture and eliminating the stigma preventing millions of employees from seeking the mental health treatment they need.
Do you want to promote mental health in your company and reap the benefits of increased productivity? Feel free to schedule some time with our benefits experts and they will answer all your questions.