Though many of us try to keep our personal and emotional lives separate from our work, the way we feel and interact with our world inevitably impacts our behaviour and performance professionally. Frequent absences, lower productivity levels, and greater health care costs are just a few of the ways that mental health issues cost employers big bucks. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity, with the cost to the Canadian economy in excess of $50 billion per year. Improving workers’ mental health is not only critical for each employee’s wellbeing, but also for the success of the organization as a whole.
While not “new” issues by any means, there are indications that mental health concerns are growing in the workplace. New technologies like smartphones and smartwatches are affecting all areas of our lives, and enable too many people to remain dialled-in to their work lives 24/7. Stress levels are rising as workers become too attached to (some would argue even “swallowed by”) their technologies. As such, people are finding it more and more difficult to focus on their personal wellness.
Luckily, there are ways to counteract this trend. Workplaces that support their employees’ mental health see employees who show up more reliably and work more efficiently – which equals economic benefits for their business.
While many people continue to suffer from mental health issues in silence, leaders have the power to help minimize the stigma surrounding them, thereby helping their employees feel safe and comfortable to get help when they need it. Here are a few ways employers can invest in their employees’ mental health and create a healthier, less stressful workplace:
Promote work/life balance
Insist employees take regular vacations and don’t expect them to answer emails after business hours.
Discuss mental health openly
Don’t be afraid to talk about issues like anxiety and depression. Make it clear that we all struggle sometimes and that it is okay to seek support.
Make wellness a goal
Encourage exercise, healthy eating, and leisure activity.
Currently, mental health issues place tremendous financial burden on organizations. By directly addressing mental health at work, employers can build loyalty among employees, increase engagement, and drive productivity. Not only will employers gain a return on investment, but they will also find themselves arriving at a happier, healthier workplace each morning, one with a committed workforce who will stay with them as they grow.
(1) Carly Sime (2019). The Cost of Ignoring Mental Health in the Workplace. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carleysime/2019/04/17/the-cost-of-ignoring-mental-health-in-the-workplace/#2080e0a43726
(2) Victoria Maxwell (2017). What Every CEO Should Know about Workplace Mental Illness. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/crazy-life/201712/what-every-ceo-should-know-about-workplace-mental-illness
(3) Ruth White (2019). The Case for Investing in Workplace Mental Health. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/culture-in-mind/201602/the-case-investing-in-workplace-mental-health