It is never easy to deal with stress and anxiety in the business world. Getting help from a specialist should be the first thing you do if you are struggling with your mental health.
This is especially true in today’s environment of COVID-19 induced isolation. In addition, with economic issues and job insecurity, not everyone can afford to seek help from a specialist.
The good news is that many companies currently have programs for their employees.
There is far more than an ethical case for investing in mental health programs for employees. Poor mental health in the workforce presents enormous costs on businesses all over the world. Still, we see barriers to investment, like the lack of understanding of best practices, and the shortage of documentation that such expenditures actually do improve a company’s bottom line.
Mental Health Defined
Mental health refers to a person’s state concerning their emotional and psychological well-being. Like our physical health, we need to take care of our mental health.
When your employees enjoy good mental health, they will have the energy to perform and have a sense of direction and purpose. They can better handle the challenges presented to them at work and in life.
If you have a workforce that enjoys good mental health, your team can:
- Make the most of their potential
- Play a full part in the growth of your company
- And cope with challenges in the workplace
Work-related risk factors for mental health
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are several risk factors for mental health in the workplace. Most of these risks are linked to the organizational environment, managerial environment, type of work, employee skills and competencies, competitiveness among workers, and the support available for employees to do their jobs.
For instance, an employee may possess the skills to do the work but may have little resources to do what is needed. Another extreme example is prolific office politics.
Other risks to mental health include:
- Poor communication within the organization
- Poor management practices
- Insufficient safety and health policies
- Lacing support levels for employees
- Unclear tasks or objectives
- Lack of control over an employee’s area of work
- Limited participation in decision-making
- Bullying and psychological harassment
It is important to note that bullying and psychological or even sexual harassment are among the most commonly reported causes of stress in the workplace. Also, experts noted that there are increased risks in situations where there is little social support and team cohesion. This lack of connection between employees has now been exacerbated by working from home due to the pandemic we are currently experiencing.
These risks can be costly for both the employer and the employees, as they lead to reduced productivity and increased staff turnover.
Workplace mental health issues can cause both direct and indirect costs.
Direct costs include:
- Health care costs
- Disability claims
Indirect costs are:
- Reduced productivity at work
- Employee turnover
Creating a healthy work environment
We can describe a healthy workplace as one where employees and managers readily contribute to the workplace. It is done by supporting and protecting the health, safety, and well-being of all employees.
A research study suggests that creating a healthy work environment should have a 3-pronged approach:
- Reduce work-related risk factors
- Enhance and focus on the positive areas of work and employee strengths
- Deal with all mental health issues whatever the cause is
Proactive steps to take
- Understanding of the workplace environment and how you can adapt it to develop better mental health for diverse employees
- Be mindful of what other firms who have taken action have done
- Learn from known organizational leaders and employees who have taken action in the past
- Knowing the sources of support and where employees can find help
- Awareness of the opportunities and demands of each employee in helping to establish stronger policies for workplace mental health
- Implementation of health and safety practices, consisting of identification of distress, destructive use of psychoactive substances and illness, and offering support
- Letting employees know what help is available
- Getting workers involved in the decision-making process
- Give employees the feeling of participation and control
- Invest in programs for career development
- Rewarding employees’ contributions
Benefits of investing in the health and wellness
Investing in mental health interventions should already be a part of a business’s overall strategy. It should cover prevention, early identification, encouragement, and recovery. Companies can hire occupational health professionals to support their organization in carrying out these interventions.
Research studies carried out by WHO on the cost-benefit of strategies to support mental health point to net benefits. They estimated that every $1 invested in mental health interventions yields $4 in improved productivity.
Programs to enhance mental health will potentially lead to a positive return on investments. A mentally healthy workforce is even more crucial now as the effects of COVID-19 continue to impact overall employee wellness.
It is time for businesses to give importance to the mental health of employees. One way of doing this is by removing the stigma surrounding this subject, causing individuals to hide their conditions for fear of being singled out.
Investing in your team’s mental health will encourage you employees to ask for help, seek treatment, and support each other’s need for a mentally healthy work environment. Ultimately the ROI will positively impact your bottom line as well.