Many business leaders assume an employee’s mental health is none of their business. But, in fact, an employee’s mental health can have an enormous impact on performance, which can also have a direct effect on the company’s bottom line. One in five Americans has a diagnosable mental health condition, so it’s a business imperative that management makes employee mental health their business.
Why? The Center for Prevention and Health estimates that mental illness and substance abuse issues cost businesses between $79 and $105 billion each year. Reduced productivity, absenteeism, and increased healthcare costs are just a few of the ways mental illness costs employers money.
Companies that encourage a workaholic mentality or those who have abusive leadership often have multiple employees engaged in treatment for mental health problems. For example, Amazon is notorious for what is described in a 2015 New York Times article as a brutal and bruising work environment.
How to Encourage Good Employee Mental Hygiene
It’s up to leadership to set the tone for a healthy working environment. Here are a few tips that can help:
Promote work/life balance. Management needs to walk the walk and talk the talk so teams will be comfortable knowing that their “me” time is valuable. Encourage employees to use their paid time off to recharge their batteries. And leadership must do the same to serve as role models.
No 24/7 email. Promoting an environment where employees are expected to respond to emails 24 hours a day is not healthy. A good example of an employee-centric email policy comes from Volkswagen: Their email servers stop routing messages 30 minutes after the end of employees’ shifts, and then they start again 30 minutes before they return to work.
End the cult of overwork. Of course, this doesn’t mean the leadership team should encourage slacking, but the pervasiveness of an always-on work culture can be harmful. It’s not healthy when employees compete to be last to leave the office, nor should it be a status symbol to continually talk about how busy they are. Productivity and performance should be the predictors of success, not hours logged per week.
In her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, journalist Brigid Schulte writes about software company Menlo Innovations, where staying late at the office is viewed as a sign of inefficiency and can result in dismissal.
Encourage the use of EAPs. It’s been proven time and time again that mentally healthy employees are more productive, have fewer absences, and are less prone to work-related injury. When management encourages their team members to use the services an EAP provides, employees gain confidence that they’re working in a supportive environment, which, in turn can improve satisfaction and employee engagement.
Employee Assistance Network has been helping companies and government organizations across Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee for more than 30 years. We are a recognized leading provider of Employee Assistance Programs, managed behavioral healthcare services and work-related training and education programs. For more information or to download our overview brochure please visit www.eannc.com.