Employers are Prioritizing Employee Mental Health. Here's Why
Unfortunately, our mental health problems don’t wait at home while we work. Whatever stressors we are dealing with can latch on to us and linger in the background, exacerbated by various work-related stressors that pop up throughout the day.
Over a quarter of adults experience mental health problems each year. Since employees can’t set down their mental health conditions before they clock in, many struggle with mental illness at work. Aside from the immediate stress this puts on employees, it is also bad news for the companies that employ them. Mental illness and work-related stress are associated with a variety of adverse organizational outcomes including lower productivity and engagement, higher rates of burnout, decreased employee retention, a decline in creativity, high turnover, and more.
Despite the prevalence of mental illness and its harmful effect on employees and the companies they work for, mental health has typically not been a priority for most businesses. Until recently, employees were often left without adequate resources to quickly and affordably take care of their mental health needs.
Fortunately, many companies now grasp the significance of maintaining a mentally healthy workforce. According to a 2022 report, 90 percent of employers are investing more in mental health programs. This marks a significant shift in the importance organizations are placing on mental health and their willingness to act as stewards of their employees’ mental well-being.
Here’s why organizations are shifting gears to focus on helping their employees achieve and maintain mental wellness.
Work-Related Stress is Common
One reason employers are offering comprehensive and holistic mental health care services is that work itself is stressful. In one survey, eighty-three percent of U.S. workers said they suffer from work-related stress, and 25 percent reported that their job is the number one stressor in their lives.
In some cases, work-related stress can become so severe that it results in an “occupation syndrome” called burnout.” According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this condition is characterized by
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
Given the impact of burnout and the fact that work can be stressful by its very nature, employers now recognize they should provide workers with the tools they need to establish a healthy relationship with work and build the skills required to cope with work-related challenges.
Therapy Can Help
Burnout and other forms of work-related stress can be managed with psychotherapy. Therapy can combat work-related stress by helping employees become more mindful of what triggers workplace stress and how they react to it, build emotional resilience, and develop and maintain a healthier work-life balance.
Julia Lopez, Brand Manager at Heading Health, shares her experience of how therapy helped her navigate stress, including work stress:
Working with my therapist helped me understand aspects of work-related burnout that were and were not in my control. Through therapy, I learned how to practice better boundaries, acknowledge when I was putting too much pressure on myself, and on a larger scale, evaluate the relationship between my work and my identity.” She also noted, “Work is an incredibly important part of my life, but it’s not the totality of my life. Having a more appropriately-sized relationship with work actually helped me become more clear about my career goals and ultimately feel more effective in my job.
Julia is far from alone in her experience. Studies have shown that a variety of mental health techniques, from cognitive behavioral therapy to mindfulness-based stress reduction, are effective at helping employees combat burnout and other types of workplace stress.
Of course, employers shouldn’t just throw more mental health services on top of work-related stress and call it a day. Burnout is complicated and may require internal and external solutions. However, easily accessible and affordable mental health solutions can play an important role.
Good Mental Health is Good for Organizations
Employers generally understand the value of helping employees maintain their physical health. From mild colds to severe medical conditions, employees who aren’t physically well simply can’t perform at their best, if at all.
Though it may not be as readily apparent, mental health is just as critical to a well-functioning organization.
Happier Employees are More Productive and Creative
There is a well-established link between depression and motivation. Low motivation is so frequently experienced by individuals with depression that it’s listed as one of the condition’s main symptoms in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).
With that said, you’d expect employees who don’t feel their best to get less done, given that their low mood is taking their productive energy away from them. Recent research has verified this intuition. One study found that happier employees are 13% more productive on average.
Better Mental Health Leads to Stronger Engagement
Depression and anxiety can make it more difficult for individuals to be engaged at work, meaning they may struggle to approach their tasks, jobs, and colleagues with a positive, focused, and energized state of mind. Unsurprisingly, researchers have consistently found that burnout and other sources of work-related stress are associated with decreased levels of engagement.
Mental Wellness Can Boost Recruitment and Retention
Employees are increasingly evaluating potential employers’ ability to provide adequate mental health resources when applying for jobs. According to one report, 81 percent of respondents stated that how employers support mental health will be an important consideration when looking for future work.
Mental health has also become a more significant consideration for employees deciding whether to leave their current employer. A recent study found that one in four workers who left their jobs in the past two years did so because of its impact on mental health.
Investing in Mental Health Saves Companies Money
Mental illnesses such as depression cost companies an estimated $51 billion annually. From lower productivity to a lack of engagement to the loss of valuable talent, poor mental health dramatically affects companies’ bottom lines.
Fortunately, employers can effectively combat this by investing in accessible, comprehensive mental health services. According to the World Economic Forum, employers see a $4 ROI for every dollar they spend on mental health care.
Mental health must continue to play a critical role in employers’ overall wellness strategies. From its impact on organizational outcomes, to its effects on the company’s bottom line, to the fact that workplaces are often a significant source of stress, organizations have strong altruistic and self-interested reasons to take care of their employees’ mental health. Investing in a flexible, accessible, and affordable option that provides employees with quick access to a range of services is a great place to start.
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