Mental health is as vital to an employee’s contributions and productivity in the workplace as physical health. Yet, many employers are not equipped to offer appropriate wellness programs for individuals suffering from deteriorating mental health or a mental illness.
According to the US Center for Workplace of Mental Health, depression costs employers $44 billion annually and contributes to financial loss due to presenteeism, absenteeism and direct costs for treatment. The complications and symptoms of the most common mental health problems result in reduced attention span, fatigue, and poor time management and communication. Employers are beginning to understand that mental health can be costly and that measures to improve this aspect of employee health is imperative. A recent report by the World Health Organization found that for every $1 invested in treating depression and anxiety-related disorders, employers realized a $4 return in improved employee health and workplace performance.
There are some definitive steps employers can take to improve employee mental health:
Education. Employers should incorporate mental health education with health information strategies for all employees, not just those affected. Utilize corporate newsletters or other employee communication platforms to offer signs, symptoms and awareness of mental health problems. Engage mental health associations to give in-house, brown bag roundtable discussions about mental disorders. Early recognition and diagnosis can offset higher costs down the road. The stigma associated with mental illness will also be reduced when employees having better knowledge about mental health issues.
Improve Work Environment. Often, employees feel that workplace conditions can trigger or impact mental health. Audit the workplace environment to reduce known stressors. All it may take is to offer better, more flexible work hours; healthier meal plan options; office equipment upgrades such as furnishings, technology, or lighting; and professional assistance for those who seek it.
Insurance and Financial Assistance. Employers can shop for better resources and financial vehicles to keep employees mentally and physically whole. Look for insurance plans that cover mental health disorders. Consider screening all employees for depression and other major mental health illnesses. Arrange for periodic employee self-assessments. Catching conditions early can lead to less expensive treatment options.
Optimize Technology. Virtual reality technology used by psychotherapists can be made available to employees for treatment of some common anxieties and phobias. Apps that provide self-help, guidance and therapy strategies, or goal setting to achieve better workplace stress management, should be evaluated. Wearable technology is also available to help employees suffering from depression, anxiety and some bipolar disorders. Technology should be used in conjunction with human support systems.