Depression…anxiety…panic attacks…substance abuse. Despite ongoing initiatives to remove the stigma associated with mental illness, these words retain the power to make many of us squirm. Mental health remains a delicate subject in many circles, and that includes the workplace.
Unfortunately, mental health problems don’t magically cease when employees punch in for their shift. Don’t think it affects your workforce? Consider these mind boggling statistics:
- One in five Americans has experienced a mental health issue.
- One in 25 Americans has lived with a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder.
- Forty million Americans ages 18 and older deal with anxiety.
- Depression affects about 6.7 percent of the adult U.S. population.
In short, mental illness is everywhere in various forms. Chances are, it’s impacting your business in very real ways you don’t happen to see. Fortunately, research studies have shed some light on this often invisible problem. The more directly employers tackle the issue of mental health in the workplace, the healthier their workforce—and business—will be.
How Mental Illness Hurts Business
Common mental health issues like depression and anxiety not only hurt individuals, they take a toll on the company’s bottom line.
According to The National Council for Behavioral Health, untreated mental illness and substance abuse cost American employers $105 billion in lost productivity every year, along with 35 million annual missed work days. And less than half of front line managers are trained to recognize the signs that there’s an issue. Are yours?
Often, the work environment is part of the problem. In one survey, a startling 82% of workers reported they’re at least somewhat stressed at work, with 18% reporting significant stress. A quarter of workers admitted to wanting to scream on the job, and 14% admitted to tamping down the impulse to strike a coworker in the past year.
Many employees claim that job demands are their single largest stressor, pointing to factors like a heavy workload, unreasonable deadlines and lack of control over their duties. While some stress is a reality of life, employers that promote a chronically-stressful workplace are hurting themselves as well as their people.
Some evidence suggests that the less money workers make, the more vulnerable they may be. In a survey of workers in various industries, more than a third of workers in the retail industry reported anxiety and depression. Figures for the hospitality and manufacturing industries were nearly as high.
It’s hypothesized that low-wage hourly employees don’t have the resources to seek mental health treatment, or see it as less important than paying the bills.
8 Ways to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace
The good news is, mental health treatments are generally very effective. Furthermore, there are a number of steps employers can take to improve mental health in the workplace, including:
- Make sure your employees understand their health plan’s mental health benefits—and encourage them to use them.
- Promote your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) widely and positively. Often, employees are reluctant to use EAPs because they don’t want their employers to know there’s a problem. Work to overcome any stigma.
- Make sure your employee wellness program addresses mental health, not just physical activity. In one survey, 85% percent of workers said managing stress was a key reason for participating in wellness programs. A robust wellness program will not only keep healthcare costs down, but positively impact your company culture.
- Avoid overtime. In addition to driving up labor costs, overtime takes a toll on workers’ mental health. In one British study, civil employees who worked 11 hour days were two- and-a-half times more likely to develop depression than coworkers who maintained seven-eight hour workdays.
- Consider providing “Mental Health First Aid” training classes to employees. These programs, which teach employees how to recognize signs of mental illness in coworkers, have proven to be highly effective.
- Reevaluate employee workloads and deadlines to ensure manager expectations are truly realistic.
- Encourage employees to use their vacation time and sick leave, especially for occasional “mental health days.”
- Work on building employee engagement, improving internal communication and developing a positive work culture—all will contribute to a less-stressful work environment.
You want to help your employees be healthier and happier—and at EPAY, we want to make that easier to accomplish. Among other things, our HCM system features an easy-to-use employee self-service portal that will make it a snap for employees to access your employee benefits plan, EAP and wellness program, while facilitating easy communication between management and worker.
In addition, our time and attendance system allows you to limit overtime hours, while ensuring employees take their daily meals and breaks. And while you’re making the workday healthier for employees, we’ll make the workday easier for your hardworking HR crew. Learn more—take our two-minute tour.