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Why mental health in the workplace is important

Why mental health in the workplace is important

Mental health in the professional setting has become a critical component of the business environment. For HR professionals and organizations, becoming aware of the impact and importance of mental health in the workplace is essential. Mental health can affect employee productivity, job satisfaction, retention, and organizational morale. In addition, it can cause depression, anxiety, burnout, and stress in the workplace. Left unaddressed, the consequences could be staggering. That’s why providing therapy for employees through resources like Talkspace can be an effective solution for preventing these consequences. 

Research shows that 1 in 5 adults in the United States deals with a mental health condition yearly, and 1 in 20 deal with a severe condition. The stats are even more prevalent when we look at mental health in workplace environments. According to a recent survey of 1,400 workers, more than half (53%) feel burned out, and almost half (46%) think that work is too stressful.

Learn why mental health is important in the workplace, the importance of addressing workplace mental health, and what employees expect in terms of support at work. Creating an inclusive environment that fosters positive mental health across your organization and addresses employees’ needs is possible. Doing so can pay off, too. 

The importance of addressing mental health in the workplace

Why is mental health important in the workplace? Simply put, ignoring mental health issues won’t make them disappear, and the repercussions can devastate organizations. 

The truth is mental health can impact more than just individual employees. It can affect:

  • Business outcomes
  • Productivity
  • Company morale
  • Profits

It’s not all doom and gloom, though — a supportive and understanding environment that values mental health can thwart employee burnout and reduce stress levels. 

In short, by adequately addressing mental health concerns, organizations can create healthier work environments contributing to happier people and organizational success.

“Creating an environment that fosters mental wellness and values employees utilizing mental health resources contributes to not only an individual’s well being but to the organization’s overall success. It also contributes  to recruiting and retaining high quality employees.” - Talkspace therapist Jill Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH

The effects of not addressing workplace mental health

Ignoring mental health issues goes beyond individual employee well-being. It poses several risks for organizations. Thus, employers must recognize the risks and take proactive steps to learn how to talk about mental health in the workplace.

Increased absenteeism

Subpar mental health can increase employee absenteeism. Workers are more likely to take time off due to stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. Some research suggests it might cause 4 times more unplanned absences than those who report good to excellent mental health. Absenteeism can affect productivity, impact daily operations, and strain other team members who are left filling in the gaps.

Presenteeism

Presenteeism occurs when employees are physically at work but unable to perform to their best ability due to emotional distress. Presenteeism can be significantly worse for organizations than absenteeism, as it often goes unnoticed and unaddressed.

Employee turnover 

When a focus isn’t placed on mental health in workplace settings, the result can lead to higher turnover rates. This could be the combination of employees quitting because they can’t handle the emotional distress of being at work. Still, it also might be due to Employees looking for organizations that offer better mental health benefits. According to research, 57% of employees would be willing to stay at a job that offered better or more mental health services. 

Decreased productivity and work quality

When employees struggle with mental health challenges, they can face lost productivity and a decrease in their work quality. This can be due to an inability to concentrate and get problems solved or even difficulty making sound decisions. If your company’s productivity metrics are low and you’re trying to improve employee productivity, you may want to take a closer look at employee mental health.

Negative impact on morale and workplace culture

Work environments that don’t prioritize mental health can see low employee morale. Hostile atmospheres quickly create a toxic workplace culture where employees are uninterested in their roles.  

Strained relationships and work environment 

It’s easy for mental health struggles to create strained relationships between colleagues, leadership, and employees. Effectively communicating can be difficult when emotional distress is at play, creating conflict within the team and difficulty in resolving misunderstandings.

What employees want from employers

Fortunately, employees are very forthcoming with what they want and need from employers in terms of mental health support. Talkspace surveyed nearly 4,000 people, and their responses offer pretty clear and staggering findings, including:

  • Over half of the respondents (51%) rated mental health benefits at work at 9 or 10 (out of 10) in effectiveness at relieving stress
  • 84% of respondents ranked mental health as the most effective or tied for the most effective benefits at work for stress management 
  • 96% of respondents ranked mental health benefits at work as effective or more at relieving stress than commuter benefits and financial wellness benefits
  • 98% of respondents believe mental health should be covered by insurance for everybody
  • 86% of respondents agreed that if their employer directly covered the cost of therapy, they would be more likely to stay in their job

Employees want specific action items regarding mental health at work, including:

Mental health support and awareness

Today’s employees want employers to promote and provide mental health support proactively. They want workshops, seminars, training sessions, mindfulness techniques, and resilience-building strategies to improve their mental health. 

Easy access to help

According to the survey, 78% of respondents said they’d value access to professional mental health services. Offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and confidential counseling and therapy services can significantly impact helping employees manage mental health.

Flexible work arrangements

Remote work and flexible scheduling can improve employee mental health by reducing commute times, offering autonomy over schedules, and encouraging work-life balance.

A supportive environment

Curious how to support employee mental health? Work atmospheres that value and respect employees can be paramount in effectively addressing mental health concerns. Encourage open communication, foster teamwork and collaboration, and provide opportunities for growth and development – these are essential components in creating support for work environments where employees can thrive.

How to address mental health in the workplace

It doesn’t take much to address mental health in the workplace adequately. With just a few simple adjustments in policy and environment, you can create an environment that supports mental health in your organization and emphasizes the importance of employee wellbeing. Here’s how to improve mental health in the workplace:

  • Offer stellar business benefits packages: An attractive benefits package can support employees by offering mental health resources like therapy and counseling services. It can also be a competitive way to attract exceptional people and give you an edge over your competition. 
  • Offer flexible or remote schedule opportunities: When people can set their hours or work remotely, stress and tension can be substantially decreased. Empowering your people with the autonomy to create their schedules promotes mental health and well-being.
  • Schedule and conduct regular reviews and check-ins: When you routinely check in with employees, you monitor performance and ensure opportunities for open communication. Conversations during these dedicated times can be instrumental in identifying and addressing potential issues before they escalate and affect productivity and morale companywide.
  • Design and implement a supportive environment: Foster teamwork and collaboration through team-building activities. Ensure an open-door policy that promotes open communication between leadership and employees. Encourage people to take breaks and practice self care.
  • Offer an employee assistance program (EAP): EAPs are confidential employee-sponsored programs that offer support for employees dealing with personal or professional issues. Programs might include counseling, financial assistance, legal advice, and other employee resources.
  • Make workplace perks the norm: Comprehensive benefits packages and flexible work arrangements aren’t the only bonuses people are looking for from employees today. Offer various perks promoting mental health, like days off dedicated to mental health awareness, on-site wellness programs, and educational opportunities to improve mental and physical health.

“Providing clear communication around mental wellness and mental health benefits not only lets your employees know about these benefits but also communicates your organization’s values while decreasing stigma around mental health concerns.” - Talkspace therapist Jill Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH

Sources:

  1. “Mental Health by the Numbers.” NAMI, June 2022. https://www.nami.org/mhstats
  2. Witters, Dan, and Sangeeta Agrawal. “The Economic Cost of Poor Employee Mental Health.” Gallup.com. Gallup, December 13, 2022. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/404174/economic-cost-poor-employee-mental-health.aspx

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