Why Care About Employees’ Mental Health?

When’s the last time you checked in on how your employees were doing? I mean really doing — in their lives — not just their work. Mental health and emotional wellness do not just apply to those dealing with diagnosed mental or emotional disorders. All of your employees need support in this area. Whether it’s combating burnout, increasing engagement, or promoting an all-around work/life balance, a mental health wellness program can provide just what your business needs.

Wellness programs are common but tend to focus on physical health with gym memberships, fitness trackers, rewards for reaching health milestones like blood pressure and weight goals, etc. However, mental health awareness and support are severely lacking in the average workplace.

Why is mental health support important for your business? I’m glad you asked. Overwork and a stressful work environment can lead to burnout, which is characterized by mental and emotional exhaustion. Your workers may show up and appear to be functioning well when really, they are becoming more and more disassociated from your company and their work.

Burnout can easily lead to depression which results in poor performance and possible absenteeism. In fact, workers with symptoms of depression were five times more likely to have productivity issues due to lost time at work than those not experiencing depression.1 Unresolved mental and emotional strain can spark emotional outbursts, anger, and even workplace violence.

Mental health also has a direct impact on physical health. Those with poor mental health are less likely to take care of their bodies and may suffer from lifestyle conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and more. These illnesses necessitate time off to see healthcare professionals, costly prescriptions, and even hospital visits and surgeries. While employers may worry about the increased costs of adding a mental wellness program or benefit, employees with good mental health will generally be healthier and visit the doctor less, lowering their overall healthcare costs.

If nothing is done to prevent burnout and depression within your office, eventually your affected employees will have had enough and may leave your company, raising your turnover rates and costing you even more money. Adding programs and benefits aimed at mental and emotional wellness can help reduce absenteeism, boost performance, and lower your turnover rate.

The first, and arguably most important, step to starting a mental health wellness program at your company is to create a supportive office culture. Those who are dealing with mental and emotional disorders may not feel comfortable telling bosses and managers about their conditions or needs. Even subtle things can affect workers, such as expecting employees to work late hours, answer communications outside of work, and lack of support for time off.

To understand what your employees need, start with a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) which focuses on both physical and emotional health. Next, use this data to make changes to show employees that you take their concerns and their health seriously. Increasing awareness and understanding is a key task.

Have your management team conduct open forums or workshops concerning mental health. Bring in experts to discuss stigmas surrounding mental health and provide actionable items for employees to take away. Do not single anyone out. Rather, frame the conversation as something everyone deals with. After all, 41% of employees have reported experiencing mental health issues at work.2

Along with establishing an open culture surrounding mental health, you need to provide tangible resources for employees to utilize. Employees with access to mental health resources are more likely to seek out professional help and make changes to improve their lives. The gradual return of a proper work/life balance will improve overall happiness, engagement, and performance. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are a great way to encourage a work/life balance and support mental health. Of course, choosing an insurance plan that covers mental health services is also critical.

Another great way to support mental health is to encourage travel. The benefits of travel are undeniable. Not only does travel remove employees from their stressful office environment, but it also encourages rest, relaxation, and a mental renewal. Travel lowers stress and allows the body and mind time to recover from everyday demands. Including benefits like Taab with your employee mental wellness plan will show that you take worker happiness seriously and actively encourage a work/life balance.

The effects of poor mental and emotional health could be dragging your business down more than you realize. Along with the regular benefits that every other company offers, add a mental health wellness program to support your employees and keep them happy.