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Why ignoring mental health in the workplace hurts your business

It is estimated that more than 10% of global citizens suffer from a mental health condition. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, eating disorders, substance abuse, and ADHD (to name a few) transcend all genders, cultures, and income levels.

According to the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), one in five people in the workplace experience a mental health condition.

Workers experiencing symptoms from mental illnesses (decreased concentration, memory loss, fatigue, impaired decision making) have decreased productivity and are more likely to miss work.

Despite positive strides in the right direction over the last decade, mental health in the workplace continues to be stigmatized. Now more than ever, in the midst of a global pandemic, businesses simply cannot afford to ignore the mental health concerns of their employees.

Improved workplace productivity

Workers suffering from a mental health condition that is untreated may experience fatigue, irritability, insomnia, or inability to focus.They may have trouble interacting with others, or have difficulty responding to big changes in the workplace.

Ensure your work culture is one that encourages open communication around mental health, so that employees feel empowered to access the care they need. Telehealth is especially relevant during this time, where limited contact is imperative to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Consider digital therapy (BetterHelp, TalkSpace), stress reduction/meditation apps (Calm), flexible working hours, and gym memberships.

Not only is it ethically responsible, but research shows that every dollar spent on effective mental health initiatives will, on average, have a positive return on investment of $2.30.

Improved employee attraction & retention

According to our research, 88% of professionals consider the mental health policies of a potential employer important when looking for a new role. Retention increases based on how engaged your employees are. An engaged employee feels that they’re part of a team, has autonomy to do their job, is constantly learning and growing, and is able to recognize their impact within an organization. Employees suffering silently from a mental health condition are unable to stay engaged, and are therefore more likely to leave.

On the other side of the coin, employers are better able to attract potential employers when they have a reputation for offering flexible work benefits, career or personal development packages, and both physical and mental health programs.

Establishing an open & positive company culture

Setting an example as a leader by talking about mental health publicly will play a huge role in how it is treated in the workplace. In fact, when polled during a recent study, 62% of 1,000 respondents said that having someone in a leadership role speak openly about mental health would make them feel more comfortable talking about it themselves.

When taking time off to attend therapy, add it publicly to your calendar. Let employees know that there are no repercussions for taking “mental health” days, and encourage honest communication.

Regular catch ups with managers and peer support can also make a huge difference to employees, whether or not they are suffering from a mental health condition.

Create better, more proactive relationships between co-workers

Employees are likely to feel isolated during this time if proper steps aren’t taken to ensure relationships are being nurtured. We know that employees who have a “best friend” at work are less likely to experience stress in the workplace.

Have your employees participate in icebreaker activities with new hires, and encourage social interaction. Be clear which channels should be used for business communication and which channels should be used for fun.

Create opportunities for peers to give kudos or positive feedback to one another, cheering them on when they hit major milestones.

Link between mental and physical health

Physical health and mental health are intrinsically linked; when one is out of balance, the other will certainly be affected. For example, depression, one of the most common mental illnesses in the world, affects the immune system by suppressing T cell responses to virus and bacteria.

Anxiety and angry outbursts can also increase the chance of heart attack. In terms of benefits, mental health should be treated the same as physical health. When both are in sync and healthy, employees are less likely to be absent from work (absenteeism), or worse, present at work but unproductive and unhappy (presenteeism).

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