A quarter of the working population suffers from stress, depression or anxiety

Currently, a quarter of the workforce suffers from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. There is a wide range of potential causes for this spike: the transition to hybrid working, increased digital transformation, and high-pressure environments, to name a few. Managers would be well advised to provide support to staff suffering from their mental health at work, as this not only impacts the individual worker, but can also cause lasting damage to the entire employee base and even to company profits.

HR managers must continually review and improve their people programs to include mental wellness support, which is often not included in these regular reviews. Indeed, less than half (38%) of HR leaders have provided wellbeing support to their staff since the start of the pandemic, demonstrating that a gap exists between employee needs and organizational supply. If managers want to close this gap, they should consider providing targeted mental health and wellbeing assistance tailored to each employee.

Growing difficulties around well-being at work

Everyone experiences stress at work from time to time as a natural reaction to times of high pressure. Short-term moderate stress can even be beneficial; Researchers at UC Berkeley have found that this type of stress can improve performance and boost memory. Yet when stress is present in the long term in an individual’s life, or even turns into something more sinister, it is far from beneficial to a workplace.

In recent years, mental health issues have taken their toll on society. Globally, the number of people who have reported experiencing the negative effects of lockdown measures on mental health has skyrocketed, making it even more difficult to transition to “normal work patterns”. The Covid-19 pandemic has also forced people to deal with psychological disorders in more immediate ways than usual, leading them to take sick or compassionate leave. Combined with the feelings of grief and isolation that everyone felt during this time, reporting of poor mental health at work has increased dramatically.

On top of that, people work in a very different environment than they once did. Increasingly, companies are offering hybrid policies to their staff, and while this brings a plethora of benefits for many, it can also impact employee wellbeing. Many employees tend to work longer hours when working remotely, as the lack of distinction between work and personal life makes it difficult to truly “disconnect”.

The real cost of poor mental health

Low mood and other mental health issues are a very personal experience, so we often think of them in terms of their impact on the individual employee. Consequences can include short-term poor motivation and performance, which can potentially lead to longer-term sickness absence.

Poor mental health within an employee population can also have broader effects on the organization. A third of employees would consider quitting their job if they felt a lack of support for their wellbeing from their employer, something companies simply cannot afford in today’s high turnover environment. Additionally, poor mental health can lead to poorer business performance because when staff suffer, they are less engaged and less motivated, which has a ripple effect on profits. Mental health issues affect all aspects of an organization and as such must be managed carefully and effectively.

Provide direct support to those who need it most

A good starting point is an assessment of current mental health and wellbeing practices, to find out what is already working well. This can include conducting anonymous surveys of staff to find out what support they find helpful and to uncover specific causes of poor mental health. Often, leaders aren’t aware of their employees’ unique needs or don’t know how to address them, which is the first step to providing better support.

Once management has a clear idea of ​​their employees’ needs, they can begin to implement tangible, long-term solutions. A wide range of digital technologies are available in the health and wellness space and can ensure that managers implement effective mental health strategies without draining company resources. For example, digital workplace coaching can guide employees through their personal and professional challenges. Coaches can help employees with any wellness issues they may have, as well as support them in their professional development, helping to improve mental health throughout the organization.

Build a sustainable strategy to support well-being

Depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity, demonstrating that a lack of mental health support in the workplace has a specific and measured economic impact, as well as a negative impact on organizational culture and productivity. Employers who implement targeted and personalized mental health support will inevitably see a strong return on their investment in employee wellbeing. A program tailored to meet individual needs is the rule of thumb and employers who do this will be the ones employees want to work for, which means everyone wins.

Michael A. Bynum