When It Comes To Work, Mental Health Support Is Essential

by | Nov 2, 2022

Productive companies tend to have several things in common. They hire good leaders, support their employees, and motivate their teams to achieve their highest potential. But often, organizations forget to focus on an issue impacting an employee’s ability to work: mental health support. Positive mental health leads to lower turnover, higher productivity levels, and less absenteeism over time — saving companies thousands of dollars over time while building a solid company culture. 

At Work, Mental Health Support Is Essential

But first, let’s dissect how mental health support at work can impact employees. 

Poor Mental Health In The Workplace Is Prevalent

At work, mental health support, or lack thereof, plays a much more significant role than most employers realize. In the last year, respondents reported experiencing the following as a direct result of their jobs: 

  • 55% of employees reported feeling stress.
  • 38% of employees reported depression.
  • 36% of employees reported anxiety.
  • 31% of employees reported feeling anger.
  • 37% of employees reported a lack of motivation.

When asked what caused the most work-related stress, employees listed

  • Being overworked (37%) 
  • Lack of work-life balance (33%)
  • Poor compensation (31%)
  • Job insecurity (29%)
  • Lack of support (29%)
  • Lack of flexibility (29%)
  • Their physical work environment (28%)  
  • Lack of benefits (27%)
  • Bad management (26%) 
  • Lack of resources (26%) 

The impact of this emotional and mental distress can be devastating over time, and the worst part is that it’s unnecessary. When workplaces provide employees with the support they need to thrive, metrics improve across the board. Employees who feel like their mental health is supported in the workplace are more productive, less costly, and more likely to stay long-term. 

Here are some of the most significant benefits of prioritizing mental health in the workplace. 

Supported Employees Quit Less. 

Replacing employees is extremely expensive. Some estimates predict replacing employees costs 6–9 months of their original salary. So, for an employee making $50,000 a year, you can expect to pay between $25,000 and $37,500 to find a replacement. 

Even more concerning is the number of employees who quit for preventable reasons. According to a survey by JobSage, 28% of employees have left a job for their mental health. Imagine if nearly 30% of your staff decided to quit because you didn’t want to provide mental health support for them. If you lost 28 out of 100 call-center employees making $25,000 a year, you would have to spend at least $350,000 replacing them — and that’s a low estimate. 

But wait — it gets worse. 

In 2019, one study by Dynamic Signal found that 63% of workers were ready to quit their jobs over stress, nearly double the percentage who recently quit their jobs for mental health reasons. But that illustrates how workers are hanging by a thread and how easy it is to lose over half your staff in the blink of an eye. 

Yikes. 

Luckily, you can take several steps to reduce employee turnover, and prioritizing your staff’s mental health is one of the most important. In fact, 57% of employees considering quitting stated they would likely stay in their current position if provided with more mental health services. That can make a massive impact when it comes to reducing employee turnover and improving overall satisfaction.  

Supported Employees Take Fewer Days Off.

Every day, a million people miss work due to stress. Workers who take sick days to address mental health issues are 7 times more likely than workers with physical health problems to have additional absences. Often, this is the direct result of poor workplace support systems for mental health and placing unnecessary stress on employees. 

That lack of productivity has a cost. Absenteeism due to depression costs the U.S. $51 billion every year. In the U.S., that translates to $1,685 per employee per year. If you have 10 employees, that means you can expect to spend $10,685 in lost productivity every year, with 60% of that cost due to psychological problems caused by preventable workplace stress.

Since so many workers report taking time off to deal with stress, depression, or anxiety caused by the workplace, it only follows that mental health support at work can make a big difference in reducing absenteeism. Businesses with engaged employees see a 20% reduction in absenteeism. Part of fostering that level of engagement is ensuring employees have the resources to maintain good mental health outcomes. 

Supported Employees Are More Productive.

According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion annually in lost productivity. That’s a worrying figure, but it’s not that surprising. After all, it makes sense someone might not be at the top of their game when they feel stressed, depressed, or anxious — and, on top of that, feel like they have no support. 

Conversely, mentally healthy employees are between 13%–20% more productive. Imagine a boost in profit that just a 13% increase in productivity could make for your business — all due to prioritizing employee mental health. 

Supported Employees Have Lower Health Costs. 

Stress and poor mental health can severely impact the amount of medical attention an employee needs during a year. Depression alone costs $26 billion per year in treatment costs, and stress-related health care costs $190 billion annually. 

That’s a problem for everyone: the health care system, you, and your employees. 

Sometimes, the consequences are even more severe. About 120,000 stress-related deaths are caused by poor mental health support in the workplace every year. That’s right — sometimes, at work, mental health support, or lack thereof, can be the difference between life and death. 

Mentally healthy employees are significantly less expensive in terms of health care costs. So, if you’re looking to save money on health care costs at work, mental health support programs and resources might be just what you need. 

Mentally Healthy Leaders Are More Present.

Mental health is a critical concern when empowering your management staff. After all, managers are employees, too, and are just as susceptible to all the previously listed problems associated with poor mental health. 

Managers also set the tone for how the rest of the team feels about communicating their needs and taking advantage of resources. In the U.K., 30% of employees reported they could not communicate with their supervisor openly when they were feeling overwhelmed or stressed, which is not OK. Employees should be able to show vulnerability and share their needs with supervisors without fear of retaliation or disregard. 

Having a management team that prioritizes mental health can create a positive climate for how your business addresses issues like stress, depression, and anxiety. That’s why training your leadership team and encouraging them to prioritize their mental health is vital. 

Supported Employees Don’t Feel Miserable.

Nearly 40% of employees report feeling their job has had the worst impact on their mental health. That factor is second only to finances (42%) regarding mental health outcomes. Also, 20% of employees report their company doesn’t do enough to support their mental health needs. 

In other words, 2 out of every 5 workers suffer poor mental health outcomes as a result of their work, and half of those have hardly any mental health support at work. It’s a recipe for misery, suffering, and in many cases, lasting health problems. 

So, why doesn’t every employer prioritize addressing this issue and work mental health support programs into their business strategy? 

Unfortunately, one school of thought in business operates under the assumption that “mental health issues” are an excuse for laziness. As we have discussed throughout this piece, all the relevant research shows this is not the case, and mental health is a genuine concern in the workplace. But beyond the benefits of saving money and boosting productivity, there’s one primary reason all business owners should prioritize the mental health of their employees: It makes people less miserable. 

Work takes up about a third of your life if you work full time. If that third is miserable, your quality of life will be negatively impacted. That’s unacceptable when preventing that misery can be as easy as showing basic compassion and concern for other people. 

As a business owner, you have a moral obligation to ensure your employees are not going home feeling sick to their stomachs at the thought of coming to work the next day because you allow them to be overworked, bullied, or disregarded. It’s simply not acceptable. That’s why emphasizing mental health in the workplace is essential, no matter what kind of business you run. 

But what does emphasizing mental health look like in practice, and how can employers work mental health support programs into their preexisting strategies? Well, sometimes it’s as easy as asking people if they’re doing ok. 

What Does Emphasizing Mental Health Look Like? 

There are 2 answers to this question. First, businesses prioritizing mental health take the time necessary to ensure their teams feel heard and supported and aren’t experiencing undue stress. This can take several forms, but here are some of the most common. 

Accommodate employee disabilities.

  • “If you need some extra time to complete this project, please let me know.” 

Suggest employees take a break if they seem overwhelmed. 

  • “I can see you are struggling with this process. Why don’t we walk around the block and then come back to see if that helps get the creative juices flowing?” 

Be open to discussing hardships and concerns with team members. 

  • “I understand you feel like you lack the training to complete this project. When would be a good time to set up some training, so you feel more comfortable with the material?” 

Accommodate employee family emergencies. 

  • “Please don’t come in tomorrow. Your mom’s surgery is more important.” 

Offer benefits that include mental health resources. 

  • “Our package includes 2 mental wellness visits per month.” 

Encourage healthy lifestyle choices. 

  • “Why don’t we all take a break to hydrate and maybe get a little sunlight?” 

Limit unnecessary stress for your teams. 

  • “If this email client is stressing everyone out, we can look into switching to a different one.” 

Provide PTO time for leisure, vacation, and rest and encourage employees to use it. 

  • “We provide 10 days of vacation and 6 sick days per year that you can use at any time.” 

Emphasize work-life balance and insist employees not work during their downtime. 

  • “Please stop checking your email over the weekend. Work can wait until Monday.” 

Maintain strict policies against bullying, harassment, or office politics. 

  • “Excuse me, that comment was insulting, and I will not tolerate it. We do not run the sort of workplace where bullying is tolerated.” 

Notice when an employee seems distressed and privately offer support. 

  • “Hey, I pulled you aside because you seem sad today. Is everything alright? You don’t have to answer me if you don’t feel comfortable, but please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” 

Second, businesses that care about mental health outcomes hire managers who lead by example and care for their mental health to provide the best possible support to their teams. This can take many forms, but here are some of the most common. 

Lead by example and utilize PTO without distraction. 

  • “I will not be here from Aug. 21 to the first day of September. I will not be looking at my email, so please let me know if you need anything before I go.” 

Express when they feel overwhelmed and take a moment to recalibrate. 

  • “Let’s take a break for a minute. I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed. I’m going to get a snack, then I will come back.” 

Acknowledge they are human and don’t expect perfection from themselves or others. 

  • “So, I can see I made a small error on this document, and so did Mia. It happens. We’re human. Let’s just get that corrected.”

Speak openly about prior or current struggles. 

  • “I remember back when I was in your position. I thought that machine was tricky to learn as well.”  

Showcase healthy habits. 

  • “I brought a mango for my snack. It has lots of vitamin C. I’m also trying to drink more water.” 

Be honest about personal hardships (if comfortable). 

  • “As some of your know, my mom passed away recently. As you can imagine, I am still in the process of grieving, so please be patient with me if I need to excuse myself.” 

By making sure your management team encourages other employees to attend to their mental health needs and leads by example, you are working toward building a culture where your staff feels comfortable taking advantage of all the resources at their disposal.  When it comes to boosting productivity at work, mental health support is crucial. Investing in the right resources will ensure your teams have the tools to combat stress, depression, and anxiety. This investment will pay dividends down the line, so don’t wait! Start developing a plan to make mental health a priority at your company today.

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