November 2 is National Stress Awareness Day. That’s one of the many reasons why we’re discussing why employers should invest in employee mental health resources. If you’re experiencing thoughts about suicide, please call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 988lifeline.org. Help is available, and you are not alone.
The average person spends one-third of their life at work. We spend another third of our lives sleeping (or trying to sleep), leaving us with limited time for self-care, socializing, and all the other needs that we have as humans. Although there’s been talk about losing jobs to technology and robots, it’s only recently that our needs as humans in the workplace, particularly our mental health needs, have started to become a conversation.
None of us are robots. We all have lives outside of work. If we’re unable to manage those needs, it will inevitably affect our ability to perform in the workplace. With so much time spent at work, it’s unsurprising that there’s a critical link between our work and our wellbeing.
The increased stressors over the past few years have highlighted how important it is to take care of your mental health. Whether you experienced job loss, grief due to losing someone, isolation because of remote work, or anxiety and exhaustion from being an essential worker, the events of the past few years have taken a collective toll on our mental health.
It’s showing in many ways; there’s a lot of discussion around the “Great Resignation,” but there’s far less discussion about the research that shows an increase in attrition rates due to mental health reasons, including those driven by overwhelming and unsustainable work and toxic workplace environments. To add to the stressors everyday Americans are facing, talk of a looming recession is also likely to be weighing heavily on the minds of many, fueling feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.
While discussing mental health in the workplace once was stigmatized, the taboo around this topic is slowly lessening as people – and employers – realize just how much workplace demands can affect our mental health and vice versa. It’s mutually beneficial for employers to provide high-quality mental health resources to their people.
Mental Health Challenges Are Very Common
Often when people think about mental illness, they think about harmful stereotypes or tropes that have been put forward by society. You may recognize some of these familiar tropes, such as:
- Mental illness being framed as attention-seeking or manipulative behavior
- Romanticizing depression and self-harm
- Mentally ill people as being violent
- Romanticizing addiction or portraying people with addictions as violent or criminals
- Autistic people as being devoid of emotions and incapable of living a fulfilling emotional life while being savants in other areas, such as music or math
- Depicting people with obsessive-compulsive disorder as being singularly focused on cleanliness and organization — and portraying it as a positive thing
The truth is that mental illnesses are among the most commonly diagnosed conditions in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health disease or disorder at some point in their lives. Nearly one-in-four U.S. adults are living with a mental illness or substance use disorder. In any given year, one-in-five U.S. adults are living with a mental illness. Even if you don’t have a mental illness – or are currently undiagnosed – it’s highly likely that you know someone who does. What’s even more critical is to understand that we all have and experience mental health needs.
Mental Health In the Workplace
The U.S. Department of Labor recently recognized and highlighted the importance of recognizing that everyone has mental health needs through their “Mental Health at Work: What Can I Do?” public service announcement campaign. According the World Health Organization, the workplace may have risk factors for mental health, such as poor management and communication, inadequate health and safety policies, inflexible working hours, and a lack of support for employees.
A 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association yielded the following:
- Nearly three in five employees have been negatively impacted by work-related stress in the past month.
- A large majority (87%) believe that there are actions that could be undertaken by their employer that would improve their mental health.
- The number of respondents looking to change jobs has increased since 2019, from one in three to two in five.
- Those who endorse dealing with high levels of workplace stress are over three times more likely to report plans to seek employment elsewhere within the next year.
- The primary workplace stressors reported were low salaries, long hours, lack of paid time off and/or sick leave, and a lack of opportunity for growth.
Those in historically marginalized communities are being affected by workplace stress and mental health challenges at higher rates. Black and Hispanic/Latino people, people with disabilities, and those from the LGBTQIA+ community were more likely to report intentions to seek other employment. Consequently, people from these communities were more likely to report having been the target of workplace discrimination in their current workplace, opening the door for conversations about toxic work environments and performative diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices.
The survey further revealed that the three-in-five employees negatively impacted by work-related stress report that this stress has negatively impacted their performance at work. Difficulties reported include:
- A lack of interest, motivation, or energy
- Difficulty focusing
- Lacking efforts at work
Keeping this in mind, it may be a good time for managers to ask: Are employees “quiet quitting” or are they burned out because they don’t have what they need to be successful, whether it be better work-life balance, a positive workplace environment, or access to mental health resources where they can get professional help for stress management if needed.
Workplace stressors have been shown to be as harmful to health as secondhand smoke. Providing a health insurance plan isn’t enough; nearly half of people (42%) have indicated that finances or poor insurance coverage are barriers to treatment. Remember: mental health care is healthcare! To be beneficial, it needs to be accessible.
The Benefits Of Investing In Employee Mental Health Resources
Anxiety and depression, two of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses, costs the global economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. Evidence-based interventions, such as organizational practices, flexible working, mindfulness interventions, and breaking up excessive sitting, have been found to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as improve health and productivity.
Studies led by the WHO estimated that for each dollar spent on mental health treatment, there’s a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. Access to mental health care improves employee attendance, well-being, and consequently, company performance. Want your company to do well? Then your employees need to be well and do well.
Ways To Invest In Your Employees’ Well-Being
There are many ways to invest in and promote employee mental health. Here are just a few:
- Robust Employee Assistance Plans (EAP) that offer 24/7 crisis counseling.
- Access to a Human Resources liaison to help employees access and navigate benefits.
- Provide standing desks with walking pads or other similar equipment to help break up long stretches of sitting.
- Offer stipends for work from home equipment for remote or hybrid employees.
- Providing free counseling with licensed therapists to all employees and their beneficiaries.
- Peer-to-peer support groups.
- Clean up your company culture and create a culture of caring, where everyone matters and you take care of each other. (Two of our Shared Values at Insight Global!)
- Promote work-life balance.
- Empower your employees by allowing them more input and decision-making.
- Offering flex times and/or hybrid schedules.
- Offering remote or hybrid work.
- Free subscriptions to mindfulness apps such as Headspace
- Free subscriptions to fitness apps or programs, such as Peloton or Apple Fitness.
- Get employee input on what they need for their health and well-being.
- Allow employees to take mental health days.
These are just a few suggestions. At some point in their lives, virtually everyone can recall a time that they needed some extra help and support – and that’s okay. Employers are in a great position to help provide access to those lifelines. They should also take corrective action to remedy toxic workplace environments that may contribute to or exacerbate employee mental health challenges. High turnover rates are costly for both employees and employers; investing in quality mental health resources for your employees is a mutually beneficial way for employers to help employees, while addressing some of the factors driving high attrition rates.
Get in Touch!
At Insight Global, we believe everyone matters. We believe in taking care of each other. These are part of the Shared Values present in everything we do. We back that up by providing free mental health resources to all of our employees, among other initiatives. We are more than a staffing company – we empower people through economic opportunity. We’re here to serve you, whether you’re looking for employees, employment, or guidance on how to cultivate a culture of caring where everyone wins when people are put first. Contact us and let’s talk about how we can serve you!