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Employee Health: It’s More Than Physical

Stress in the workplace is common and inevitable. While some stress can be healthy, an overload can cause mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. The World Health Organization reports that these conditions are becoming increasingly common, with 300 million people living with depression–making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. 

There’s never been a time so crucial to include mental health coverage in your company’s health care plan. While mental health care has always been necessary, COVID-19 has exacerbated that need. News headlines from outside the workplace can quickly and repeatedly affect employee performance. Our world has seen wildfires, political unrest, violence, and discrimination, among other prevalent difficulties. 

Since the pandemic, employees have faced a harder time concentrating at work. Mental Health America released its 2022 Mind the Workplace Report with responses from 11,300 employees across 17 industries. Although there is an increase in stress and burnout, only a third of respondents said that their company leaders talk openly about mental health. When employees felt they could talk to their supervisors about changing stressful things, they were most likely to report healthier workplace health scores.

Key Statistics

  • Nearly 9 in 10 employees agreed that workplace stress affects their mental health. 
  • Nearly 3 in 5 employees did not feel they worked in a safe environment for mental illness. 
  • 71% of employees found it difficult to concentrate at work. 
  • 83% agree that work stress affects their relationships with coworkers, friends, and family. 
  • 56% of employees spent time looking for a new job, up 16% from the previous year.

Overview

While external stressors may not go away, you have control over the internal stressors in the workplace. Protecting your employees is essential to safeguarding your company’s day-to-day functioning. When your employees are dealing with burnout, providing mental health care is not only about caring for your employees but also for your business. If left untreated, mental unwellness can lower your company’s overall impact and productivity. The American Psychological Association reported that employees with untreated depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity in 2021. This contributes to the $210.5 billion a year lost in absenteeism and medical costs. 

Conversely, supportive and adequate mental health resources and policies can make your company a great place to work while elevating your company’s productivity and retention rate. Taking care of employee health is crucial to the functionality and success of your company. Providing supportive leadership and supervision can bring positive mental health outcomes in the workplace.

A Healthy Workplace is Possible By

  • Fostering a culture of wellness
  • Engaging in routine employee check-ins 
  • Offering wellness programming and bonding
  • Providing effective conflict resolution
  • Providing sufficient employee benefits and policies
  • Providing accessible resources

Your employees are valuable assets, so treating them by giving them an environment where they can get the care they need and deserve is essential. Failing to provide adequate benefits and resources can cause a drastic increase in employee attrition rates. In November 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the highest volume of individuals as of late that quit their jobs–a whopping 4.5 million.

Benefits of Providing Mental Health Care Include

  • Increased retention
  • Increased creativity and performance
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Reduced turnover
  • Increased productivity
  • Lowered medical costs
  • Improved employee physical health

Mental health is invisible–recognizing or providing ways to care for it may not be so obvious. A well-functioning company depends on healthy employees–and employee mental health is more important than you may think. Providing mental health care for your company is a form of preventative care for situational and chronic symptoms. Temporary solutions are not sustainable; providing ongoing and adequate mental health care is imperative.

Foster a Culture of Wellness

In a professional environment, It can be hard for employees to bring up their struggles. As a leader, you can encourage open conversation by speaking about your own mental health concerns. To start, emphasize that mental health is just as important as physical health. You can address the reality of mental unwellness by encouraging your employees to do things that help with burnout throughout the day. Encourage your employees to take short breaks from their work or to stretch their legs out on a walk. Promoting a healthy diet or physical activities (like working out and yoga) can also be helpful.

Remind your employees of company policies and resources that are there to support everyone. In addition, regularly checking in with employees is a sustainable strategy for getting them the help they need.

Check-in With Employees Routinely

Monitor the general well-being of your company. Ask employees to complete routine questionnaires about their mental health and stress levels. You can use these surveys–such as the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) or the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-4)–to identify employee needs. Implementing prevention programs is associated with positive cost benefits. By actively checking in with your employees, you can use their anonymous, self-reported feedback to help you shape and implement effective health programs.

Recognize Symptoms of Depression

Depression may be invisible, but it can manifest in debilitating ways. Mental health conditions can be easier to miss since they aren’t as visible as physical ailments. Severe depression can be easier to point out, but milder forms of depression are also important to be aware of. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Difficulties concentrating
  • A loss in interest
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Disruptions in sleep or appetite patterns
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Other interferences

Implement Wellness Programs and Bonding

Providing opportunities for employees to connect and build bonds with each other can foster an inclusive culture. Activities like yoga, mindfulness training, or meditation can relieve stress and bring your team together for a bonding experience. Physical activity programs like these that target stress have been shown to decrease absenteeism. Additionally, stress management interventions can improve productivity at work. 

Incorporate Social Activities

Frequent socialization has long been associated with improvements in lifespan and quality. With its immeasurable effect on your employees’ well-being, employers should look to encourage and provide opportunities for socialization within the workplace. Some examples of social activities to get your workforce started are:

  • Affinity groups 
  • Book clubs
  • Workshops
  • Fundraisers

Planning events outside the scope of daily work build camaraderie and give something employees can look forward to. While certain activities can be applied to any group of individuals, social events and activities are at their best when all employees are included and catered to. To meet this end, you may want to consider building a culture committee in your workplace–Forbes has provided tips on how to make this committee as effective as possible.

Why Is This Important?

Beyond strengthening camaraderie, building solid and positive relationships at work can alleviate the negative impact of stress in and out of the workplace. For example, social events can help make work more exciting and fun, providing a break from and de-escalating stress. In addition, identifying and conversing about collective struggles can make employees feel less isolated.

Effective Conflict Resolution

Having a plan for conflict resolution will help build a safe psychosocial environment. Harassment, discrimination, and bullying between employees are linked to depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, and more. Verbal harassment can also manifest in physical health problems–like contributing to poor cardiovascular health–which can cause physical health and injury claims. 

To protect the mental and physical health of your employees, outline a support system that is easy to navigate for both employers and employees. Emphasize and simplify the process by ensuring employees know where to get help and from whom. In Mental Health America’s Mind the Workplace 2022 report, only 47% of employees know about their company’s mental health services, while an even lesser 38% were comfortable using them. Conversely, 55% of employers reported intervening in mental health-related issues, but only a third believed they had the appropriate training. According to Dr. Phillip G. Levendusky–Associate Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and Director at McLean Hospital–it’s time for employers to educate themselves about the tools and resources needed to provide professional assistance and recognize the symptoms of common mental health disorders. In addition, to care for employee mental health, it’s critical to educate yourself and your staff about mental unwellness and how to address it.

How Does This Benefit Your Company?

Conflict resolution plans can prevent bullying and, in turn, lower the amount of employee absence and worker’s compensation claims. In addition, addressing discrimination and resolving conflict enables your team to focus more on their work–and less on issues that can distract employees from doing their job.

Did You Know?

The cost of mental health care is costing your company more than you think. For example, employee turnover can cost an organization an average of $3,600 for hourly workers and $2,650 for salaried workers. Replacing an employee with a $45,000 salary can cost up to $15,000. Mental health care can prevent the damages that come with turnover.

Provide Access to Resources

Offering digital mental health resources is one way to show support for employees. This could take the form of gym memberships, subscriptions to apps that help with sleep, and stress reduction, or that feature guided meditation. While these apps are not a replacement for treatment or therapy, they are certainly an excellent resource for employees on the run. Additionally, these digital resources can be easier for employees that may not be comfortable using in-house mental health care resources.

Why is this important?

The 2021 MHA survey reported that “emotional support was strongly correlated with the employer providing a safe and welcoming environment for employees who live with mental illnesses.” Employees with access to resources are more likely to be resilient when facing difficulties. According to Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, employees with lesser resilience have 10% to 20% higher rates of depression, absence, and reduced productivity. On the other hand, numerous studies have shown that mentally healthy workplace environments increase employee creativity and job performance.

Employee Benefits

Mental health apps and programming are great additions that can bolster employee mental health, but without addressing structural and organizational policies, the core causes of unwellness can be left unchecked. Better employee benefits are the most direct way to ease stressors at work that can debilitate employee mental health. 

While employers should always seek to provide the best benefits they can, benefits capabilities will always differ from company to company. Despite this, becoming aware of various stressors in the workplace is a cost-free method that can help alleviate risks to your employees’ mental wellbeing. Some potential workplace stressors include:

  • Taking on too much work
  • Lack of PTO
  • Low salaries
  • Commuting
  • Pressure to meet or exceed standards
  • Fear of being laid off or fired
  • Working long hours

When employees work under inadequate conditions, their capacity to work diminishes and it’s more likely for them to quit. A study conducted by Deloitte identified the top 3 drivers of employee burnout as:

  • A lack of support or recognition
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Consistent long or weekend hours

Working to alleviate aspects of the workplace that lead to burnout can be an effective tactic in retaining your best employees. It doesn’t always cost you money- changing the way you work with, treat, and recognize your employees will go a long way in improving their experience with your organization.

Potential Alleviating Policies

To alleviate mental unwellness in the workplace, acknowledge your employees’ needs. While it’s not your job to diagnose anyone, it’s a huge help to your employees when you provide an insurance plan that includes counseling and therapy. Top-tier EAPs can also offer in-person, phone, or video counseling. 

Give your employees ample time to recharge and rest to absolve unrealistic expectations and long hours- offer flexible scheduling, mental health days, or work-from-home stipends. Offer your employees with children reimbursement for childcare services and generous parental leave policies. 

Without ensuring manageable workloads, however, no amount of policy can help you outrun employee burnout. Remain cognizant of your employees’ capabilities and workload at all times to ensure they are cared for— a key pillar of effective management is to fully understand the capacity of your employees and delegate accordingly.

A Common Myth About Mental Health Care Costs

Providing mental health care for employees is costly and ultimately loses the company money. Offering more time off will reduce the amount of work and productivity of employees. In any case, physical health is more important than mental health.

Debunking the Cost of Mental Health Care

Download: Employee Health: It’s More Than Physical

Mental health benefits can increase productivity and performance and cost less than $500 per employee. You don’t need external investment to supplement employee mental health. A combination of workplace policies and changes can improve employee mental health. Additions may include taking mental health days, and changes may consist of ensuring a more manageable workload.

Repercussions of Lacking Health Care

Choosing the most generous employee benefit plan you can afford is the ultimate way to show your employees that you care. These plans will give employees the space to address their mental health needs. Policies can reduce and improve mental health struggles, addressing unmet needs that can put struggling employees at a disadvantage.

Impact on Physical Health

Mental and physical health are linked. Stress in the workspace can contribute to physical, comorbid conditions like diabetes; depression can double the risk of developing an artery disease or stroke. Potential health risks of mental illness can include:

Additionally, Workplace Strategies for Mental Health found that long-term stress increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease by 150%. MHA’s 2021 Mind the Workplace report found that 90% of employees reporting severe burnout also reported physical disease with musculoskeletal pain among the most common problems. Caring for your employees’ mental health also prevents physical health damage.

Start Planning Employee Healthcare Today

Canal HR is a professional employer organization in Metairie, Louisiana, with a long and distinguished track record serving hundreds of businesses throughout the Southeast. We specialize in providing administrative services–from payroll administration to worker’s compensation, risk management, and human resources compliance–for companies so that entrepreneurs and executives can spend less time with paperwork and more time running their companies.

Whether you provide care for a small business or large company, Canal HR has administrative services and the employee benefits you need. To find out about our services, pick up the phone or fill this form out today. Learn how you can give your employees the health care they deserve today!.

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