Mental health is a state of well-being in which a person can cope with the normal stresses of life, be productive and contribute to the community. Good mental health is essential for functioning as an individual, as an employee and as part of a community.
As an employer, it’s crucial to encourage a dialogue and support system surrounding employees’ mental health in efforts to reduce stigma, increase awareness and ensure worker well-being.
The Cost of Mental Health
Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are routinely listed as top concerns in employee health surveys and are a leading cause of workplace absenteeism.
Even moderate depressive or anxiety symptoms can affect work performance and productivity. Most employees agree that their mental and personal problems spill over into their professional lives and have a direct impact on their job performance. It is in the employer’s best interest to address mental health as part of a well-being programme.
Most mental illnesses are highly treatable. However, untreated mental illness can increase the costs to employers in the form of increased absenteeism, work impairment and on-site injuries. Encouraging effective treatment and offering support resources can save costs for employers and improve the quality of life for all employees.
Methods for Addressing Mental Health
Employers that support treatment of mental illnesses will reap a wide variety of workplace benefits— including improved employee engagement and well-being, higher product quality, better cost control, greater employee loyalty and an overall healthier workplace.
Employers can do more to promote integrated mental and physical health by fostering supportive workplaces that encourage self-screening and connect employees to proper support resources.
Consider the following suggestions:
- Provide materials and messages about mental health, mental illnesses, suicide prevention, trauma and health promotion through brochures, fact sheets, payroll stuffers and online resources.
- Offer confidential screenings for illnesses such as depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder.
- Encourage the use of telephone helplines.
- Offer a variety of mental health presentations and training for all staff with an emphasis on prevention, treatment and recovery messages.
- Offer stress reduction presentations on topics like conflict resolution, managing multiple priorities, project planning, personal finance planning and parenting.
- Provide flexible scheduling for access to classes during or after work. Classes could include yoga, meditation, physical activity and self-help groups.
- Create and support a mental health-friendly work environment that accommodates employees who are returning to work after receiving mental health treatment. Allow schedule flexibility to accommodate treatments and appointments.
- Educate managers and supervisors in recognising mental health as a factor in performance issues. Address mental health issues specific to their needs.
- Create policies and practices that provide guidance to supervisors and managers on how to address performance issues. Provide mental health consultation and information, and improve their skills in supervising an employee with mental health issues.
- Review policies and practices concerning employee privacy and confidentiality, accommodation, return to work, and relevant UK regulations.
- Evaluate the workplace environment, organisation, and culture with a focus on reducing workplace stress, workload issues and performance reviews. Address employee concerns.
- Provide employee assistance coordinators to help obtain information about resources in the community.
- Provide and maintain comprehensive privatised medical insurance cover, which includes mental health in employee benefits packages. Include screening, brief intervention and referral as a covered evidence-based benefit. Offer referral mechanisms to connect employees to mental health treatment services.
- Offer an Employee Assistance Programme.