Mental well-being is crucial. Yet, despite the correlation between mental health and productivity, mental health challenges have been met with a deafening silence in the workplace – until recently. Now, mental wellness is finally starting to receive the attention it deserves.
The Rise of Mental Health in the Workplace
In 2019, Mind Share Partners, together with SAP and Qualtrics, reported the rise of mental health challenges and stigma in U.S. workplaces. A staggering 86% of the people who were interviewed said that companies should enforce policies that support mental health.
The coronavirus outbreak in 2020 further accentuated our mental health awareness and challenges. During the first year of the outbreak, almost everyone faced some adversity, including work-life adjustment, unemployment, death of a loved one, or heightened anxiety or depression related to fear, uncertainty, and isolation.
The Standard published a 2020 report showing a significant increase in the number of people suffering from mental health issues in the workplace. In addition, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 28.5% increase in deaths from drug overdose between May 2020 and April 2021.
Burnout is the New Normal
While we have learned to live with the coronavirus, increased demands from work, family, and society have led to “burnout” for many American workers.
In its 2021 Work and Well-being Survey, American Psychological Association reported that out of over 1,500 workers that participated in the survey, almost 80% experienced work-related stress in the previous month, and about 60% of them agreed that the impact of this stress was evident at work.
The level of burnout is different across professions. There are speculations that the professions involving caregiving, like healthcare and teaching, have the highest degree of burnout. While this is a subject for debate, we can all agree that mental health literacy in the workplace is no longer an option, but a must.
Adopting Mindful Mental Health Practices
Employers can no longer turn a blind eye to mental health. According to The Washington Post, prioritizing employees' mental health can help to produce positive organizational change and can dramatically increase productivity.
During this period of The Great Resignation, workers are more conscious about what they need from their employers, which goes beyond getting a pay raise. Employers must adopt specific strategies, which include:
- Recognizing Mental Health as a Workplace Issue. In a 2020 press release, Business Group on Health revealed that about 50% of entrepreneurs are giving special training to their managers to help them identify mental issues in the workplace. By spotting these issues as early as possible, employers can reduce their impact and treatment costs.
- Promoting Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). These programs are designed to provide free, confidential assistance for employees facing challenges. While EAPs have existed for some time, they are now being promoted and used.
- Updating Employee Benefit Packages. As employers assess their benefit packages, they are taking a fresh look at coverage for mental health services.
- Understanding the Workers’ Compensation Correlation. Mental health challenges can greatly increase the recovery time and costs involved with workers’ compensation claims, according to Risk & Insurance. By proactively addressing mental health, employers can positively impact their workers’ compensation claims experience.
- Encouraging Psychological Safety. When employees try to hide their vulnerability, they become more prone to mental stress, which can be challenging to detect. Employers must ensure that employees are comfortable and able to speak out. Creating a psychologically safe environment requires intention. Harvard Business Review explains some strategic ways to approach it.
- Opening the Lines of Communication. Sharing a problem increases its probability of being solved. However, while it’s easy to tell co-workers about a broken leg, it’s frightening to tell someone about anxiety. It’s more likely to occur in a supportive environment where mental health is routinely discussed. HR Morning explains that specific conversations can help build workplace trust and openness.
Looking Forward: Physical and Mental Wellbeing
The workplace has forever changed. Employers that adapt to the new reality and focus on both physical and mental well-being stand a better chance of attracting and retaining top talent and sustaining long-term growth.
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