This is an article ‘Why Mental Health Support in The Workplace Matters’ by Marc Primo
The year 2022 was a monumental one for mental health in the workplace. With post-pandemic shifts, including the return to offices, hybrid work arrangements, and an increase in depression cases among three out of ten Americans, milestones have hogged headlines recently. Among them, the first report ever written by the U.S. Surgeon General outlined the fundamental part businesses may play in advancing and safeguarding mental health. Then there’s the ground-breaking, scientifically supported set of guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) that were made to enhance mental health at work, not to mention President Biden’s advocacy to make mental health treatments accessible to all Americans.
The question now is: Are companies ready to do their part?
Mental health, in general, is dependent on several factors including environment, upbringing, or genetics, which are among those that are top-of-mind. In the workplace, while environment and culture can be established in a more stable precedent, other influences can still affect the employees’ mental health, such as company policies, peer pressure, or burnout. Needless to say that mental health in the workplace is a serious matter that concerns everyone in the organization.
Given how widespread depression and anxiety disorders, along with poor overall mental health, the COVID-19 pandemic has urged more businesses to take a look into how they can help suffering employees. From being a fringe benefit, mental health support has become a necessity for many.
How unaddressed mental health affects business
If the increase in cases isn’t enough for companies to take a second look at what programs they can offer for their employees’ mental health support, perhaps, the figures that affect their businesses will. With a 2022 survey showing 92% of employees experiencing mental health challenges that affect their work, the global economy is losing approximately one trillion dollars annually due to unaddressed depression in the workplace.
Businesses have good reason to be concerned about this issue since eight out of ten professionals consider mental health support packages a huge factor when it comes to choosing an employer, according to the American Psychological Association. Aside from this, another survey found that 62% of businesses claim that workplace mental health is presently a priority, while 24% say that they intend to improve their mental health programs in the future.
No doubt that improvement in mental health support for employees is a good investment for businesses moving forward, considering that several factors and issues continue to evolve. From workplace diversity issues to loneliness to financial quagmires, employees need their companies’ support more than ever so that productivity is not hampered.
Key issues to address when it comes to mental health in the workplace
According to a study by One Mind At Work, there are five key areas that companies should focus on to ensure proper mental health in the workplace.
On top of the list is the issue of diversity in the workplace. Fortunately, most businesses recognize race, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors as a source of strength, though they do come with certain challenges. According to the study, building cultures that value openness, vulnerability, and respect can help companies support employee inclusion. By fostering an environment where neurodiverse workers feel comfortable and can flourish, productivity can rise significantly among teams as long as culturally competent mental health care is provided.
Another key area that companies should focus on is the establishment of flexible work systems. According to experts, having little or no choice over how and when an employee works increases the chance of developing depressive symptoms, psychological distress, burnout, and weariness. The quality of life of employees can be considerably improved by flexible work arrangements like remote work, flexible hours, reduced schedules, or hybrid work environments. Businesses that get this right can profit from improved performance and faster turnarounds, as well as happier and healthier workers.
Of course, mentally sound leaders are always essential to the success of a mentally healthy workplace. Workplace empathy has a favorable impact on productivity as it sets a positive example among employees and can even address burnout. Good leadership programs can foster recuperation into workflows, making the process beneficial for both upper management and the rank and file.
Recent instances of what doesn't work have also been demonstrated. Elon Musk's request for vows of devotion to work "long hours at high intensity" following his recent takeover of Twitter is an illustration of exceptionally poor management. According to research, those who work in these types of environments typically have worse physical and mental health.
As for the last two key areas of focus for mental health programs in the workplace, looking into how employees coped during the COVID-19 pandemic can also unleash a can of worms in terms of unaddressed personal traumas. The WHO found that 70% of people across 24 nations had experienced trauma, which has accelerated the alarming trend. Companies should take action to create a resilient culture, lessen stigma, and encourage leadership to spot employee challenges while also being able to measure improvement.
To ensure that the proper programs are set in place at the workplace and are benefitting the employees, concrete processes to measure improvements or relapses are critical. In the efficacy of strategies to enhance mental health progress at work, precise measures and explicit metrics are needed. Employers must ensure that mental health outcomes are variably measured with the same importance as they do other conventional business milestones. With this, One Mind At Work recently introduced a Mental Health at Work Index in collaboration with Colombia University and Ethisphere to further improve mental health support systems.
What employers can immediately do for mental health support in the workplace
While professional mental health support programs can be a costly yet worthy investment, smaller businesses can still establish worthy practices that offer mental health support for their employees. Perhaps, the most important thing is to provide resources for employees who think they require clinical assistance as well as those with more general mental health needs.
Learn more about Employee Assistance Programs that can help you establish mental health support programs in your company while also considering relaxation pods and safe spaces in the workplace, clinical screenings or mental health quizzes for every member, and better mental health insurance and coverage.
Of course, tt’s crucial to provide employees with mental illness with access to clinical care. However, what the majority of workers really need is mental health support rather than clinical care. Employees frequently require assistance with coping mechanisms, stress management, and resilience building during challenging times. Therefore, it’s also critical to improve their entire mental health if you want them to be productive team members as well as happy individuals.