If you’re not aware, it’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. It’s an important time to provide a safe space to focus on mental health, raise awareness, and cultivate a sense of comradery. Covid raised mental health awareness to new levels, as it directly affected everybody worldwide. Gauging the risks and benefits of mental health matters for your employees as well as your business.
We’re often so focused on numbers and memos and meetings that it’s easy to neglect self-care. We often give an abundance of energy to our work, our families, and to our community – while neglecting ourselves. This has a direct cascading effect on everybody around. Left untreated, it can compound into decreased company morale, inefficiencies in the workplace, and declining revenue as a result. Right now is the time for us to open up and be honest about what we’re going through, both for ourselves individually, and for business. This is a critical public health issue, and it needs our attention.
Many companies have taken long strides to put this at the forefront of their cultural values, improving the lives of their employees daily. Not only do employees get more job satisfaction, but companies excel as a result. Remember that happier employees equate to happier customers.
From extra time off to remote working, better health benefits to HR efficiencies, businesses everywhere are positively benefiting in various ways. Let’s discuss 5 powerful reasons to focus on mental health in the workplace.
Table of contents
1) Mental health affects productivity
Mental health well-being has a direct correlation with the productivity of employees. That productivity, or lack thereof, directly affects revenue. The Mental Health Foundation recently released a report that found 5 per cent of the UK’s GDP directly suffers due to this. If you extrapolate that to the actual cost to the UK economy, that’s £117.9 billion annually. Mental health issues include depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and bipolar disorders.
Using a preventative-based approach toward improving health and wellness in the workplace matters – especially since the third biggest cause of disability in the UK is depression. Employees often work very hard and long hours and can be stressed out about deadlines and various pressure from executive staff. Employees may keep the anxiety hidden inside and put on a brave face, but subconsciously have damaging toxic thoughts, behaviours, and emotions.
Depression and mental illness aren’t always easy to spot. Oftentimes, some of the seemingly happiest people are the most depressed. They put on a brave face for co-workers (because they’re professional) while suffering in silence. There is a term for this, and it’s known as “smiling depression.” This is known as someone living with depression on the inside yet appearing perfectly happy to the outside world. Maybe they don’t feel safe divulging their true feelings. Maybe they are fearful of saying what they really think for fear of job security and retaliation. Employers need to do a better job to ensure employees are happy and feel comfortable opening up.
Common signs of mental health decline in employees are a reduction in productivity, making uncommon mistakes, isolating themselves, and looking fatigued.
4 ways employers can improve productivity with mental health initiatives
- Offer mental health time – Give extra days off each quarter just for mental health
- Spend more 1 on 1 time with employees. HR and leadership need to spend more time simply being more empathetic. Schedule monthly check-in sessions for this purpose alone.
- Invest in better health care plans – Medical benefits are great, but make sure your company goes the extra mile to offer extensive mental healthcare help.
- Offer seminars & training on mental health – HR should prepare presentation training around mental health. How to spot signs, what to do, and how to approach requesting time off for this issue.
Use the 4 strategies to normalise mental health and boost productivity in your business. It’s not only smart, but it’s also good ethical practice. It’s just the right thing to do. Being more compassionate to your staff improves morale and encourages better teamwork overall.
2) Mental health awareness increases employee retention
When you develop a culture of well-being, employees feel more stable and secure. Company culture is everything – and those who take it for granted will surely feel the pain.
One of the biggest reasons employees value working for a company is for the benefits that are included with their salary – but also the culture and company ethos. To go one step beyond, adding increased access for “work perks” around the health of the mind appeals even greater – directly affecting retention.
Ultimately your values are what your employees will personally identify with as key difference when making job decisions.
This could be everything from employer-funded counselling to discounted gym memberships, to early finish days. Every little bit helps, and it doesn’t have to only be mentally focused. Healthier employees are less likely to be depressed as they naturally feel better with exercise. Work benefits like this help reduce addictions to alcohol or drugs.
I implore every company to make better strides and make mental health the number one priority for their business – to keep workers happy, and working for you for longer periods of time. Focusing more on mental health in the workplace fosters engagement and job satisfaction. Bad workplace environments overemphasise punishment while good workplace cultures emphasize rewards, caring, and empathy.
Remember that nothing will stagnate a company more than staff feeling underappreciated.
3) Mental health investment decreases business costs overall
As businesses know, medical benefits are one of the most attractive reasons for employees to be with a company. But what about access to therapy and mental health resources? As discussed, there is a direct link between mental health well-being and workplace productivity.
When employees don’t have the proper access to mental health services or general mental health-related perks, businesses can expect to spend as much as 300% more on health care.
All industries experience significant financial losses as a result of poor mental health within the workforce. According to the world health organisation, anxiety and depression cost the global economy 1 trillion in lost productivity every year – and self-insured employers shoulder much of the cost burden.
Employees suffering from poor mental health at work make the company pay for it both directly and indirectly. The direct costs refer to the “visible costs” associated with the diagnosis and treatment of a mental health condition, such as psychotherapy or psychiatric drug costs. Indirect costs refer to the “invisible costs” associated with the downstream impact of mental health conditions such as productivity, physical health care costs, and accidents.”
Awareness of mental health in the workplace should be carefully observed and detected before it develops into a worst-case scenario. This starts with companies knowing the common signs of depression.
5 Signs of depression
1) Changes in sleep and appetite
2) Loss of interest in pleasurable things
3) Feelings of hopelessness
4) Lack of self-esteem
5) Fatigue and feeling lethargic
Invest in mental health today for employees so you don’t incur more costs on your business. It’s a responsible financial practice which also encourages employee longevity. Praise openness around this issue and be a positive example for employees by sharing your own experiences.
4) Less stress increases company profits
As we’ve already discussed, productivity has a direct parallel predictable effect on revenue. The happier the employee, the better they work, and the better the company does overall. It’s a direct compound effect.
Not investing in employee mental health is a missed opportunity. A car tire can only last so long until there is a blowout on the highway – causing chaos. When you hire an employee, you should not only think about investing in that person’s professional skills but their mental and emotional acuity. You should think of being responsible for this person’s well-being – not just what they can do for you.
To provide a very inspiring example, and perhaps one of the most innovative is a story from a Washington based tech company.
In 2015 the CEO of Gravity payments (Dan Price) decided to do something extraordinary, something innovative, and extremely kind for his employees. As we all know, one of the biggest worries for every human being on this planet is financial security. One of his most dedicated employees was struggling financially to afford a home in a suburban area of Washington. The cost of living rose – making it harder for everyone to afford standard living conditions. She struggled as a result. She wanted a better life for herself and her children. She was also a two-tour war veteran and Dan didn’t feel it was fair. It was then he had a revelation. So, to improve the mental health and well-being of all his employees, he helped eradicate mental related stresses around financial security by introducing a $70,000 minimum salary for all his 120 staff. This helped to level the playing field for the bloated costs of living compared to standard salaries for job positions in that area.
To do this Dan took a $1 million dollar pay cut to his salary. He sold his house and changed his standard of living so his employees could benefit more. From this point, he saw employees happier and less stressed daily. He completely turned capitalism on its head, destroying the pyramid scheme of typical Fortune 500 companies. This is the kind of innovative compassionate capitalism that larger companies should take notice of. Not only did his employees thrive, but the business grew as well.
“Employees were happier and the international attention and press increased the company’s prominence and revenue by 3x within five years.”
What an innovative idea to garner more customers huh? Though this wasn’t the motivation behind the increase – it certainly brought innovation to typical corporate financial structures. I mean, what customer doesn’t want to work with a company like this? I have a strong feeling Dan’s employees will be staying with his company for a long time – and his customers. Many companies will say they truly care about their employees and do everything they can to ensure it. How many actually do it though? This is one of the greatest examples of a company leading by example.
In the UK, the average CEO earns 117 times the salary of the average worker. People are starving or being laid off and being taken advantage of, and yet many companies are still not leading from Dan’s example. Though not every company may not be successful enough to offer this incentive, they can certainly start getting creative ideas flowing to better help their employees financially. Even a 10% increase to employees company-wide can make a significant difference to compensate for worldwide increases in living costs. Perhaps cut wasteful spending in other areas so this can be accomplished. Companies can also offer special bonuses, profit-sharing schemes, and/or stock options. Invest in your staff and they will invest in you. Turn your staff members into raving fans.
5) Being open about mental health encourages a better team working environment
Normalising stress, anxiety, and depression reduces stigmas around mental health. When your business implements mental health programmes and even training, employees are less likely to suffer in silence. As a result, they feel a deeper emotional connection to their work peers. This creates trust and solace – much like a friend. Working together becomes easier and encourages better teamworking environments. Judgement decreases and empathy increases.
A recent study revealed 89% of CEO’s agree that there is a positive link between employee mental health and company mental health programmes. 75% of employees stated that they appreciate it when their leaders speak openly about mental health. It no longer becomes a moot subject – but a tangible companywide value that everyone understands and appreciates. Depression and anxiety affect everyone worldwide – so let’s be loud and proud about it.
Steven Bartlett, CEO, Social Chain
Ensuring your staff are supported and cared for is paramount. Mental health problems can fluctuate, so being consistent matters. Work diligently today to invest in the health of your business, starting with the mental health of your employees.
Happy mental health awareness week.