Mental health may seem like a modern day problem, but the fact is that it’s always been a concern. We’ve just never really talked about it before. According to a study from the World Health Organization, mental health has been one of the most challenging issues faced over the past century, and depression remains a leading cause of premature death around the world. 

While many workplaces have started to dabble in mental health care over the past few years, until now it’s largely been viewed as an ‘added extra’, a ‘nice to have’...  if you have the time and resources to drive into it. Today, however, things are much different. For modern workplaces, mental health care is no longer optional - it’s rapidly becoming a major priority for HR leaders. 

The pandemic effect

Sadly, the number of people facing depression has increased since early 2020 when the SARS-CoV-2 virus was declared a global pandemic. Not only were workers afraid of losing their jobs and being made redundant, but many also had their hours cut, reducing their income; some also had to juggle work and childcare following the closure of schools. What’s particularly worrying is that a survey of shift workers that was carried out at this time showed that only 64% felt consistently supported by their manager, while 4% felt completely unsupported. 

It’s clear that businesses must do more; they must put their people first, supporting the workforce not only during this difficult time, but through the post-pandemic landscape, too.

In this article, we explore why mental health care is so important in modern workplaces, and take a look into some of the most effective ways to support employees, boost their health and happiness, and create motivational, nurturing workspaces that can maximize productivity.

Key facts about mental health in the workplace 

  • A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry demonstrates that investing in treatment for depression and anxiety offers an attractive ROI; a return of $4 for every $1 spent.
  • Data gathered from a survey by Peldon Rose on office workers reveals that 72% of employees want employers to champion mental health and well-being in the workplace.

Common risk factors for mental health in a workplace

The truth is that businesses themselves are not enough to tackle the growing mental health crisis. Mental health can be impacted by many different things, including home life, family matters, personal situations, and even genetics. The workplace is just one of many aspects that can affect mental health, but considering that around 15% of workers attribute their mental health concerns to their job, workplace risk factors are definitely something worth thinking about.

An employee's workplace may often be the starting point for mental health issues. In most cases, risk factors directly correlate with the working environment, such as the way the organization is managed, the skills of employees, and the support available for them to carry out their assigned tasks. For instance, a worker may have the necessary competencies to complete their tasks, but may not have all the resources required at hand to work efficiently, or, in some cases, may feel they lack support from their company.

4 ways to promote mental health care in modern workplaces

Workers with mental health concerns can directly impact an organization's financial performance, as this reduces productivity and may increase staff turnover. As such, modern workplaces should implement early identification measures and provide assistance or guide staff members that are faced with possible mental distress.

  1. Create a positive work environment 

Sadly, there is still a social stigma concerning mental health. Employees are often hesitant to reveal their mental distress at their workplace, as many fear they may be seen as unfit for the job. It’s time to normalize mental health and make it a part of  day-to-day discussion. One of the best ways to achieve this is by creating an open, positive work environment that encourages your team to have a positive mindset at work, and makes them feel that they can talk openly about their concerns. Perhaps pair workers together so everyone has a ‘buddy’ to talk to, offer ‘office hours’ for your team to drop in, or encourage friendly socializing in and outside of work. 

  1. Focus on reducing risk

One thing that we all need to understand is that we can’t prevent our employees from developing mental health disorders. We don’t have that power. But we can reduce the risk and prevent the working environment from being a cause of stress. Considering people generally spend one-third of their life at work, and that work exposes employees to a number of stressors, such as workload, management styles, and job security, there’s a lot that can be done. You may want to provide education about mental health to help employees recognize the signs early on, or incorporate ‘mental health days’ into your updated paid time off policy to support workers. 

  1. Have a plan ready to deal with mental health concerns

As an employer, it is your role to ensure your workers are motivated, engaged and productive. At some point, it is statistically likely that you’ll find that one of your employees is suffering from mental health concerns, and so it’s important to have everything in place when that time comes. It’s worth taking the time to create a mental health policy, with details on programs that could help them. Also, consider amending your benefits package to provide reduced rates for mental health apps or online support sessions. In the best-case scenario, you should be able to provide multiple options for those willing to get treatment, in whatever way works best for your business.

  1. Leverage technology to reduce stress and increase engagement

Turning to technology as a problem solver can be a wise move both for your organization’s performance and your employees’ mental health. For instance, using employee scheduling software enables you to get accurate control of your costs, while allowing you to schedule employees according to their skills, and according to any personal needs such as childcare. Using an HCM platform can ensure you’re onboarding effectively and supporting new employees right from the very start. All this can provide a significant boost in morale for your staff, and can reduce absenteeism while increasing your overall business performance.

Be a mental health champion

Considering the fact that mental health disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity, it seems reasonable to state that employee mental wellbeing is critical to business success. This is especially vital when taking into account the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Some experts fear there may be a mass mental health fallout following the coronavirus pandemic, but they’re wrong - we are in the midst of a devastating mental health crisis right now. We can’t let it run rampant - we need to act urgently.

There has never been a more urgent time for businesses to champion mental health initiatives in the workplace. While businesses alone can’t tackle the problem, together we can all do our part to support ourselves, our employees, our families, and communities around the world. 

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Guest blog submission by Derek Jones  

Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication.  With a focus on workforce, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.

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