It’s tempting to think mental illness issues afflict distant and unnamed individuals who are homeless or suffer from addictions. But the truth is, the reality is much closer to home…and work. Mental health in the workplace is a long-overdue subject that needs to be addressed—and fast.
Our Western culture is experiencing an awakening to the issue of mental health. We see it in an increasing number of organizations promoting mental wellness. To name a few, England’s Royal Family and Organizations like Bell and their Let’s Talk campaign working to reduce the stigma of mental illness.
Again, it’s tempting to believe this is not the case in YOUR organization.
Today, we invite you to think again.
How Mental Health in the Workplace Impacts Your Bottom Line
Mental illness is rarely, if ever, openly discussed due to the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Not only could your employees be suffering without you realizing it, but your business could be suffering too.
In fact, mental health in the workplace has a direct impact on your bottom line.
Morneau Shepell, a Canadian Employee and Family Assistance program, indicates absences alone cost Canadian employers $28-million for every ten-thousand employees. And mental illness leads the way in those absences.
To better understand “sick time”, a 2015 study about how mental illness manifests shows the top physical complaints associated with mental illness were:
- Back pain
- Gastrointestinal disturbances (nausea)
- Acid reflux
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chest pain
If you believe mental illness isn’t costing your organization, take a look at your sick time stats. Are any of the above complaints showing up a lot?
The same study investigates how much could be saved by starting mental resilience training programs. Not surprisingly, the results are staggering.
Is a toxic workplace contributing to mental health issues in the workplace? Find out here.
Invest in Mental Wellness Initiatives
The reduction in the number of visits to the emergency department was quantified at a savings of $2360 USD/year per patient. As is often the case with wellness initiatives, implementing the resiliency program costs very little and the return on investment was impressive.
As the study only looked at emergency visits, it’s likely the cost savings is higher if non-emergent illness had also been looked at.
You likely won’t find it a surprise our community paramedics engage in resiliency training as Alberta Health Services recognizes the benefits of providing training to first responders. Understandably, the past year has meant even greater challenges for healthcare professionals of all kinds.
Still, you may be surprised to learn the workplace stressors a paramedic’s faces are very similar for ANY organization. Other than the events paramedics respond to, the organizational elements of time pressure, lack of communication, technology challenges, strained resources, and interpersonal friction are common to all organizations.
During a year when many of us have had to adapt to remote work, virtual meetings, and other challenges, many employees report their mental health is at an all-time low.
Mental Health Challenges in the Workplace
These workplace stressors can all lead to physical and emotional responses in humans. After all, a stress response is the same whether from witnessing trauma or a time crunch for delivering without resources.
As a result, wellness programs like resiliency awareness and training can help in any organization – not just those traditionally associated with high stress.
But as the stigma surrounding mental illness persists, it’s tough for an organization to address the issues and help employees.
Implementing Mental Wellness Programs in the Workplace
The good news is there are many mental wellness programs you can start without calling out mental illness.
A shortlist of examples include:
- Resiliency training
- Flexible wellness accounts that subsidize hobbies
- In-house yoga and exercise programs or gym memberships
- Flexible work schedules and job sharing
- Toastmasters programs
- Financial wellness sessions and programs
- In house weight loss or smoking cessation support groups
- Reward and recognition programs
Wellness programs and the types of benefits listed above are often viewed as costs that are extravagant or unnecessary, largely due to the difficulty in directly quantifying the return on investment.
Sadly, wellness and benefits programs are often on the chopping block when organizations look to cut costs. But given the escalating costs related to lost time and the mental toll on your employees, it’s time to rethink wellness programs.
We must ask, “What is the real cost of doing nothing”? In fact, by investing in wellness programs, you not only positively impact the lives of your employees; you also positively impact your bottom line.
No longer can mental health in the workplace be put on the back-burner. It’s time to take action!
Another workplace program worth investing in is a bullying prevention program. Here’s how to do it without the chaos.
Get Help for Your Organization
Did you learn a lot about this post on mental health in the workplace? Here are three to read next:
What is in Your Respectful Workplace Policy?
Effective Communication Techniques to Bring Your Workplace Harassment Policy to Life
Effectively Investigating Workplace Bullying and Harassment Hazards and Incidents
This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated in 2021.