Why Mental Health in the Workplace Matters

In the U.S., mental illness is the prime cause of disability for citizens between 15 and 44 years of age. Mental health problems can affect how you feel, think and act in many different areas of your life.

In particular, it can have a negative impact on your work performance and your interaction with your coworkers. Whether you are an employee or an employer, it is important to address these issues up front.

The best businesses invest in the health and wellbeing of all their employees. In turn, these employees are happier overall, allowing them to focus on their work. Overall, employees are more likely to care about the success of the company they work for if their health and wellbeing are valued. Learn more about the importance of mental health in the workplace below.

Why Mental Health Matters in the Workplace

There are three major reasons why mental health is an important aspect in the workplace. Firstly, if an employee is struggling due to illness, it will inhibit his or her ability to perform the job as effectively as possible. It can also cause friction to arise between workers if they do not feel comfortable with one another. Efficiency and teamwork both decrease when employees are stressed and dealing with mental health issues.

Mental health in the workplace is also plays a significant role in attendance. One study found that one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness every year, and only 43 percent receive treatment. The study further suggests that more work absenteeism is due to mental health problems than any other health issue. With 300 million adults in the world suffering from depression alone, mental illnesses actually cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity every year.

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Not only does you employees’ mental health affect productivity, it can also affect their ability to pursue innovative ideas and take risks. An employee’s mental state can negatively inhibit the ability to trust his or her instincts and zap the energy needed for creative problem solving.

Strategies for Helping Employees with Mental Health Issues

Until recently, the topic of mental illness was often misunderstood and brushed under the carpet. This is largely because there is still a lot of stigma around adults with conditions like depression and general anxiety disorder. However, progressive business leaders must acknowledge mental health issues are a shared concern.

It is best if employees who are suffering from mental health problems get help, for both their personal and professional benefit. Unfortunately, many workers are afraid to admit they have a problem due to the lingering stigmas. Despite mental health awareness growing all the time, many employers still do not display compassion for employees taking time off work due to depression.

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For the sake of the workers affected by mental illness, it is vital that both human resources and company leaders provide the mental support employees require. These illnesses often warrant the same care and cooperation as physical injuries. In addition to encouraging these employees to seek professional care, companies can also employ different supportive strategies around the office, such as the following:

  • Meaningful roles: Many adults with mental health problems experience a feeling of powerlessness at the workplace. Business leaders can help these employees by giving them more meaningful roles where they are able to exercise their creativity, independence and decision-making. This allows them to feel more empowered, and can help reduce the effects of depression and anxiety. As a result, these employees show more loyalty, engagement and productivity.
  • Flexibility: If workers with a mental illness have the opportunity to engage with a flexible work policy, they are able to better manage all aspects of their daily lives with less pressure. The flexibility can come in many different forms, such as flexible working hours or the opportunity to work remotely some of the time. That way, employees can navigate their illnesses and continue working.
  • Open communication: The more freedom workers with mental health issues have to perform on their own terms, the higher their efficiency and productivity is. However, employers must not be afraid to approach struggling employees in order to help find a solution to what is causing stress. Otherwise, the stress is likely to grow leading to even more problems.
  • Stress-management: Even employees without a mental health issue know what it is like to be stressed at work. By introducing stress-management courses, resilience training and mindfulness workshops into the workplace, employers and managers can help employees with mental illnesses, as well as the rest of their team members. Being aware of the connection between body and mind is vital, because anxiety, stress and depression affect both. A healthy mind supports a healthy body.

Other Ways to Reduce Mental Health Problems in the Workplace

There are other ways employers can help reduce their workers’ mental health issues as well. The more aid extended to employees, the more they will likely be willing to continue working. Consider using the following methods to reduce stress around your office or company:

  • Educate yourself on workplace mental health by researching, reading and getting in touch with mental health organizations. Make this information available to your employees as well, as they may be unable to recognize these issues in themselves, or know how to respond to others who are experiencing them.
  • Connect employees with resources for mental health issues, both within the company and outside of it. This includes on-site therapists and mental health advocates.
  • Raise awareness of mental health issues amongst your workforce. You could do this by hosting training sessions or talks with mental health experts. The more aware everyone is of mental health issues, the easier they can be identified and addressed.
  • Encourage conversations about mental health so everyone feels more comfortable with the subject. This will allow employees that need help to ask for it without fear, and for other employees to offer help when they recognize signs that a coworker is struggling.
  • Work to reduce stress levels around the office. For instance, you could give employees longer rest breaks or make improvements to their office space in areas that typically cause stress.

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