By: Dr. Victoria Rodriguez, LMSW, MPA
In 2020, the American Psychological Association predicted that pandemic-related stress would lead to a national mental health crisis that would continue for years past the pandemic. The impact of the pandemic on mental health has become increasingly apparent in all aspects of life, including work. With an estimated 83% of workers suffering from work-related stress, employers find themselves in a unique and challenging position to ensure employees’ physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Employers must recognize the importance of mental health in the workplace and regard their employees’ health as essential for company success.
Why Investing in Employees’ Mental Health is Essential
According to the American Institute of Stress, 25% of US workers list work as their number one stressor, and nearly one million US employees miss work each day due to stress. Employees struggling with mental health concerns can be less productive, have higher absentee rates, make fewer contributions and make poorer decisions. Employees navigating mental health concerns need more bandwidth to do their work effectively. If work is the source of stress, the motivation to enter the work environment and engage can decline, leaving an increased likelihood of calling out, withdrawing, or needing increased time to complete work responsibilities. Investing in mental health ensures employees have the resources and space for navigating their mental health concerns, leading to increased productivity, engagement, and retention.
2. Better retention.
Employees are more likely to stay at companies that take a human-centered approach, recognize them as complete people, and make an investment in their overall well-being. For current employees, providing mental health resources and coverage while highlighting the importance of caring for one’s mental health allows employees to acknowledge their needs and ask for help rather than avoid their mental health concerns and potentially leave the company. This investment can assist in both retaining employees and attracting new employees.
3. Lowered costs.
Mental health concerns are linked to overall health and productivity declines, leading to increased direct and indirect company costs. Companies can spend nearly $26 billion on mental illness treatment costs. Likewise, the cost of absenteeism and loss of productivity majorly cost companies. Absences caused by depression cost businesses about $51 billion a year. A company’s cost to cover lost productivity and replace a worker is nearly 75% of that employee’s annual salary. Investing in employees’ mental health ultimately saves company costs by limiting other expenditures and losses.
4. It’s the Right thing to do.
Creating a company culture invested in employee mental health should be an organizational responsibility. There are various ways to create a culture that prioritizes mental health and makes it a part of company practices. Providing employees with the resources they need to do their job successfully and creating a company where people want to come to work, feel supported, and be recognized, leads to better workplace relationships and organizational culture.
How to Invest in Employees’ Mental Health
Organizational leaders should model the behavior of normalizing, talking about, and investing in mental health. Breaking stigmas can foster an environment that allows employees to feel comfortable discussing their needs and seeking help.
2. Listen to employees and track feedback.
Do not make assumptions about the needs of employees. Create spaces for active listening and time for staff to report and discuss their concerns. Listening can occur in check-ins, one-on-one conversations, and via surveys. Companies should use feedback and data to develop plans that work for specific employees’ needs.
3. Provide resources.
Create and coordinate mental health programs and resources employees can easily access. Companies can provide help through an internal or external employee assistance program, a directory of resources, and company-held workshops. Adjust practices and policies to accommodate flexibility and assist in creating a supportive environment.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Stress in America: A National Mental Health Crisis. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/10/stress-mental-health-crisis#:~:text=Stress%20in%20AmericaTM%202020,faces%20is%20overwhelming%20to%20them.
The American Institute of Stress. “Workplace Stress – The American Institute of Stress”, Feb. 2023, https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress
Greenwood, K. & Krol, N. (2020). 8 Ways Managers Can Support Employees’ Mental Health. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2020/08/8-ways-managers-can-support-employees-mental-health
Zippia. “40+ Worrisome Workplace Stress Statistics : Facts, Causes, And Trends” Zippia.com. Feb. 11, 2023, https://www.zippia.com/advice/workplace-stress-statistics/