Mental health isn't a new topic in the workforce, and until recently, it wasn't prioritized by many companies. With more professionals emphasizing the importance of mental health and well-being, employers must act to improve support and awareness in the workplace. Keep reading to learn why discussing mental health and well-being should be a top priority for your company and how you can take steps to improve support for your employees.
Importance of supporting mental health at work
The World Health Organization estimates a loss of 12 billion workdays annually because of depression and anxiety. However, organizations that provide resources and employee mental health support are often able to reduce the number of missed workdays due to mental health issues. This support is crucial to creating a healthy work environment for your staff and can lead to:
Work-related stress is one of the most common mental health issues. Employees who endure stress during the workday are more likely to experience burnout, resulting in lower productivity and missed days. According to the American Psychological Association, work-related stress costs an estimated $221 million to $187 billion each year, with productivity-related losses accounting for 70% to 90% of those costs. However, companies that actively prioritize employees' mental health and well-being typically have higher employee engagement and productivity.
Prioritizing mental health and well-being has grown in importance as older employees leave the workforce and younger ones begin their careers. A Harvard Business Review survey found that 61% of new graduates entering the workforce would choose to leave a current role for another job with better mental health benefits. The study also found that 54% of respondents would decline a job offer completely if it meant giving up their work-life balance. With additional mental health benefits, accommodations, and support, your company can reduce turnover and retain qualified talent long-term.
Employees who feel that their employers adequately meet their mental health needs have higher rates of job satisfaction. What's more, job satisfaction directly impacts employee engagement. Unhappy, stressed workers aren't likely to engage, and they experience burnout at higher rates. Prioritizing and supporting mental health in the workplace can create a positive atmosphere where employees enjoy their work, ultimately boosting engagement.
Return on investment
According to the National Safety Council, employers experience an average loss of $15,000 per employee due to mental health issues. However, companies that actively prioritize employees' mental health through medical benefits, wellness programs, and continuous support can get a return of $4 for every dollar invested. This is a substantial ROI for organizations that go beyond traditional medical coverage and implement strategies that promote mental health and wellness. Employees who feel that their mental well-being is important to their employers engage with their role and are more productive and satisfied in their jobs than those who don't.
"One in two people has left a job because of bad management. With stakes this high, it's vital to ensure leaders are aware of mental health and employee well-being and how to address it."
How to improve employee mental health support
Strategies for supporting mental health at work differ between organizations, but there are key approaches your company can take to improve support for employees:
Add to your health benefits
Many employers have added to their health and medical benefits since 2020 to include separate mental health and well-being coverage, which is valuable for attracting and retaining top talent. You're more likely to retain employees if you offer a well-rounded package that includes coverage for employee mental health services, programs, and resources.
A survey by Corporate Wellness Magazine found that 25% of employers now provide full mental health coverage in addition to traditional medical benefits. This emphasis on mental health support gives employees the means to care for their well-being, leading to greater satisfaction. Adopting similar policies can showcase your company's continuous investment in employees' wellness.
Provide mental health resources
Make resources such as employee assistance programs (EAPs) and wellness stipends available to staff and offer guidance on how to use them. The Corporate Wellness study also found that more organizations are providing EAPs, with 92% stating they've made employee mental health and work-life balance top priorities. However, even when employees have access to an EAP, few may use it. If your organization provides EAPs or similar resources, encourage employees to take advantage of these benefits when they need them.
Offer training and coaching
Encourage leadership, management, and staff to participate in mental health awareness training. Your organization can also provide coaching or refer staff to resources that will help them develop the skills they need to recognize and address sensitive topics at work. Employers who actively invest in training for their managers can have positive outcomes across their entire organizations.
Cultivating empathetic and compassionate leadership creates an environment where employees feel psychologically safe and able to connect with their managers. Gallup's State of the American Manager report found that one in two people has left a job because of bad management. With stakes this high, it's vital to ensure leaders are aware of mental health and employee well-being and how to address it.
Make employee well-being a priority by promoting wellness as a whole. Physical and mental health are connected, so fitness, nutrition, and socialization are aspects of employee well-being that can suffer in a toxic work environment. With the addition of health benefits, access to resources and EAPs, regular check-ins, and encouragement for employees to use their benefits, your organization shows it's taking the necessary steps to ensure employees remain satisfied in their jobs. Remind staff members to use their vacation time. Set an example by also taking time away for yourself.
Encourage open communication
Keeping communication open between leaders, managers, and staff is crucial to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and related issues. Communicating regularly with employees shows you care and can help them feel safe and comfortable discussing their mental health and well-being. According to Mental Health America, employers can open the lines of communication around mental health using active listening, regular feedback, self-assessment, and verbal encouragement for employees to use their paid time off.
More ways to improve mental health in the workplace
More organizations are adopting additional mental health strategies as emerging professionals prioritize this aspect of the workforce. With so many aspects depending on optimum mental wellness, it's worth considering these additional steps to improve employee support:
- Provide additional accommodations. If possible, adjust to a flexible work culture with hybrid or fully remote schedules to better support employees' diverse needs.
- Support work-life balance. Offer additional time off or a separate policy for mental health days to promote and encourage a positive work-life balance.
- Offer programs and incentives. Aside from mental health coverage and EAPs, many companies provide other programs and incentives, including wellness and fitness programs, healthy habits incentives, and one-time stipends or health spending accounts.
- Create opportunities to connect. Socialization is as important for mental health as physical wellness. Create opportunities for teams to connect through team-building activities, open communication, and cross-collaboration.
Prioritizing employee mental health in the workplace benefits employees and the organization. More emphasis on self-care, well-being, and a positive work culture will ensure employees remain engaged and satisfied in their jobs. The results will be higher retention and productivity and a greater return on your investment.
Additional resources and tips:
Find out how to prevent employee burnout to help boost productivity and improve job satisfaction.
Discover more ways to support your employees' well-being to create a positive work environment.
Did you know that managers can directly affect employees' mental health? Learn how to make a positive impact.