It’s a fact: Healthy employees are more productive, have fewer absences, and are more engaged overall, which can result in a positive impact on your company’s bottom line. However, according to a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Foundation, the Harvard Opinion Research Program, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, employees agree that their jobs and workplaces have an impact on their health, but not necessarily in a positive manner.
In their survey of more than 1,600 adult workers in the United States, one in six (16%) responded that their current job has an adverse effect on their overall health. This negative impact also extends to the workers’ stress levels (43%), eating habits (28%), sleeping habits (27%), and weight loss or gain (22%). The main causes of stress at work aren’t terribly surprising – they include workload management, issues with managers or fellow employees, difficulty coping with work and personal life balance, and a perceived lack of job security.
An analysis conducted by the World Health Organization found that by 2030, the world will have lost 12 billion workdays due to depression and anxiety disorders. This adds up to an incredible 50 million years of work lost and puts the annual financial impact to the global economy at a staggering $925 billion.
This stress can also be blamed for a loss in productivity, with 35 percent of employees confessing that they lose one hour or more per day in productivity due to stress. So, it’s easy to see why, in today’s fast-paced work environment, it’s more important than ever for employers to promote healthy working behaviors and surroundings. However, this thinking should extend beyond traditional wellness programs such as weight management and step challenges to mental health management. More employers have been inspired to provide employees with benefits and programs to reduce stress, with one survey finding that 54 percent of employers planned to offer physical activity programs for their employees. But that’s not enough. Employers need to take a long, hard look at helping their employees manage their mental health as well as their physical health. They also need to think about how they communicate these benefits to their diverse employee populations.
Treatment for the most common conditions is effective 80 percent of the time yet only 33 percent of the people who need help will get it, because of the societal stigma; the fear of repercussions at work; and the lack of access to high-quality, affordable treatment.
How to Help Improve Workplace Mental Health
Awareness is key, so don’t hide the fact that you’re there to help. Managers need to not only ensure their teams know an EAP is an option, but they also need to encourage their employees to rely on it as a tool to help them manage stress. The reduction in absenteeism and increase in productivity are worth it.
Other resources that can help employees include:
ICU Program – The ICU Program is an anti-stigma campaign designed to foster a workplace culture that supports emotional health. Its core component is a five-minute video that uses the analogy of an Intensive Care Unit to explain how people with a psychological/ emotional issue or illness may require help from one another. ICU teaches employees how to identify the signs of distress and appropriately connect with coworkers who may need support. ICU was developed by DuPont for their global workforce of 70,000 employees and has since donated it to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health for other employers to use it at no cost.
#IWILLLISTEN – #IWILLLISTEN is an award-winning social media-based public service campaign designed to create awareness of the prevalence of mental illnesses and reduce the stigma associated with them. #IWILLLISTEN encourages people to listen to their friends, family members, and colleagues with an open mind and without judgment when it comes to mental health. The campaign is used by organizations to eliminate the barriers and stereotypes that so often prevent people from getting needed help. Employers can bring this campaign to their companies through #IWILLLISTEN days, which will help break the silence and connect employees to vital mental health resources.
Right Direction – Right Direction is a creative educational initiative designed to reduce stigma, motivate employees and their families to seek help when needed, and provide employers with appropriate support tools and resources. The initiative offers employers a wealth of free, turnkey resources ranging from content for intranet sites to template PowerPoint presentations. These can be customized to communicate the importance of addressing depression with the C-suite and managers and can educate employees on the signs and symptoms of depression, including where to go for help. Right Direction is a collaboration between the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and Employers Health.
Stamp Out Stigma – Stamp Out Stigma is an initiative spearheaded by the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW) to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and substance use disorders. Through wearing a visual symbol (wristbands) and sharing our own stories, the campaign will help remove the stigma of mental illness and addiction and those barriers to health-seeking behavior. Green, the campaign color, was chosen because it stands for health and well-being. Watch and share the films, wear a wristband, or spread the word on Facebook. It’s time to talk about it.
For more than 30 years, EAN has been a provider of employee assistance programs, managed behavioral health care services and workplace-related consultation, training and education programs. If you or your organization are interested in implementing an EAP program, or if you’d like to know more about the services we offer, contact us today.
 From a collaborative effort of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYC Metro (NAMI-NYC), Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), Partnership for Workplace Mental Health/American Psychiatric Association Foundation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and The Kennedy Forum