Mental illness is a daily presence in today’s headlines, and workplaces should be part of the conversation because most people spend most of their time there. Everything from productivity and communication to safety is impacted by how employees think, feel, and behave. Promoting mental health at work could be one of the most important steps an employer can take to improve their organization.
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues are often costly to employers. According to research, mental illness and substance abuse issues cost employers between $79 and $105 billion annually in indirect costs. Absenteeism decreased productivity, and increased healthcare expenses are just a few of the ways mental health problems cost employers money.
However, supporting employees in feeling their best also reduces suffering on an individual level. Despite the multitude of benefits of promoting good mental health, most workplaces do very little to prevent or address emotional problems.
Ways employers can promote good mental health in the workplace.
Creating Healthy Environment
Environment plays a large role. It’s crucial that employers examine the lifestyle they’re promoting among their employees. For instance, having employees work 80 hours per week or insisting they respond to work-related emails at home can interfere with their ability to build a natural buffer against workplace stress.
One-third of most people’s time is spent at work, so it’s important to ensure the workplace supports good health. You can foster a healthy environment by encouraging employees to exercise, allowing them to socialize during breaks, and offering stress reduction workshops. Having a mental health professional teach mindfulness or offering wellness classes are creative ways to develop resilience to mental health problems.
Identify Mental Health Risk
Approximately 1 in 7 Singaporeans experience a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. Yet, many of them suffer in silence. Some people fail to recognize they’re experiencing a mental health issue. Instead, they may associate their symptoms with ageing or assume that their problems are just a normal part of stress. One of the simplest yet most effective ways employers can help is to help employees recognize their risk factors and symptoms.
There are several ways employers can allow employees to access confidential mental health screenings. One way is to invite a mental health professional from the community to come into the office to provide free screenings. Employees can be given questionnaires that ask about their habits and symptoms. If the screening reveals a high likelihood of a mental health issue, they can be referred for a complete assessment.
Addressing Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues are highly treatable, so employees need to be supported in seeking treatment. A weekly therapy appointment during business hours, for instance, could prevent an employee from going out on disability for serious depression. Creating policies that support emotional wellness and treatment can ensure that employees are able to perform at their best.
While most employers would never step over an employee suffering from a heart attack, they neglect employees who are suffering from mental health issues. Unfortunately, ignoring mental health issues only furthers the stigma. Fostering mental health can ensure that employees feel safe to talk about their concerns and it will increase the likelihood that they’ll access available resources.