The Business case for Investing in Employees’ Mental Health
Emphasis on mental health has gained traction over the last few years. And the more people learn about it, the less it becomes a taboo topic, mainly because people have learned that anybody can have mental health issues and that it is not the same as being “crazy”. One in four people suffer from mental disorders worldwide with depression and anxiety being the most common forms. The discussions surrounding this topic have found their way to the work-place environment, and not those discussions focus on how mental health can be a factor – often a decisive one – when it comes to the performance of a business.
People spend on average 60% of their waking hours in the office or at work. As such, their jobs can be a major cause of stress, depression and anxiety. Studies show that up to 84% of employees have experienced poor mental health and their work was a contributing factor. This type of stress has taken a toll on their personal relationships and even led some employees to engage in unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking.
Below are some of the factors that lead to mental health issues among employees in the workplace:
- Long working hours where employees do not have enough time to relax and spend time with loved ones (work-life imbalance).
- Toxic working environment, which can be a result of harassment; both psychological and sexual, micromanagement, bullying, etc.
- Unrealistic workloads which can be overwhelming and exhausting.
- Job insecurity.
Most, if not all, of the above factors are within the realm of control of managers, and thus, c-suite executives should be aware of the impact of mental health issues among their employees on organizational performance and should take a more proactive role in promoting the psychological wellbeing of their employees. Below we will discuss ways businesses can take care of mental health for their employees and the impact this will have on their businesses.
Remedies and Precautions for Businesses
Employees who have mental health conditions are more likely to be absent from work, less productive, or even in some cases, create an environment unconducive for productivity and growth for their colleagues. All of these issues can lead to losses either financially or in morale (usually both). Studies have shown that, investing in the mental health of employees has the potential to improve workforce coordination and participation by up to 30%.
Mental illness does not just occur all at once except in some severe cases. Often, it is a gradual process, and with the right initiative and care, it can be stopped in its tracks before it fully develops. There are a number of initiatives that companies can take to improve the mental well-being of their employees:
Mental Health Interventions:
- Give your employees more control regarding their work – Give employees the freedom to control the way they work and complete their work. The return on investment (ROI) is $1.30 for every dollar spent.
- Cognitive Behavior Techniques (CBT)-Based Resilience Training: These are tools and techniques taught to employees to teach them how to handle stress and setbacks. The ROI is $1.70 for every dollar spent.
- Mental Health Screening: this is especially important as it can be used to identify employees’ going through depression and required measures for treatment and support can be taken. The ROI is $1.70 for every dollar spent.
- Worksite Physical Activity: this can be in terms of investing in fitness and exercise personnel for employees. It should be sustained to show and bring results. The ROI is $2 for every dollar spent.
- Return to work Programs: These are sessions by a psychologist with employees who have been absent from work over a period of time for various reasons such as pregnancy, extended sick leave etc. The ROI of this measure is $4.70 for every dollar spent.
Prevention & Early Intervention
There are 3 types of interventions applied in mental health. It is important to build and use evidence when using these methods:
- Promotional Interventions- used to shine more light on mental illness to the public.
- Preventive Interventions- Build up resilience and mechanisms to prevent occurrence of mental illness.
- Early Interventions- These are mainly used on individuals who show signs of mental illness; or individuals who are at risk of developing mental illness. They help mitigate the impact by taking measures such as creating a favorable working environment for the individual.
Examples of early Interventions that can be taken include:
- E-Health Early interventions
These are mainly used for mild to moderate cases of mental illness; they include psychological therapy conducted through mobile devices, video conference etc. and are especially important to companies as they are low cost, are easily accessible and do not bring about the stigma associated with therapy as they are private.
The ROI is $1.60 for every dollar spent.
- E-Mental Health Solution
This is an interactive method to deal with mental health as it uses services such as animation or games and is conducted online. It helps in early intervention by providing relevant, efficient and interactive mental health wellbeing training to employees.
Reasons for Investing in Mental Health
- It boosts Productivity
Most jobs often come with deadlines, goals related to sales or closing deals etc. all of which can contribute to stress and development of mental illness. It is therefore important for companies to come up with ways that can help improve the working environment. There are a lot of ways this can be done e.g. Employees can be allowed to work from home, this will even save with office expenses. Reducing the work week; Microsoft Japan implemented a 4-day work week and this increased productivity by 40%.
- It leads to better employee interactions with clients.
Happy employees equates to happy customers. This is because the employees are able to convey those positive feelings in their interactions with customers and are therefore likely to serve customers better. Studies have shown that customers’ buying behavior or expenditure is influenced by up to 70% by how they are treated by employees.
- It reduces sick days.
As much as $578 in loss can be attributed to an employee missing work. Poor mental health has been shown to make our bodies more susceptible to diseases such as colds or even exhaustion.
A business that invests in the mental wellbeing of employees will have maximum attendance which generally equates to higher revenue and better financial bottom line.
- Lower turnover rate.
It is important for a company to keep its best employees and have a level of continuity in its processes and culture. A company that does not invest in good mental health practices for its employees will often see them leaving and seeking opportunities elsewhere. This is expensive for the business in terms of resources it will spend conducting interviews, hiring, and later training employees.
No company is perfect, and it is impossible to get it right all the time. However, with all that goes on either at work or in employees’ personal lives, it is important for the company to invest in mental health for its staff to increase their productivity at work and their general quality of life. This will translate to increased revenue or sales & a better business environment among colleagues which can only be good for the business.