As the global pandemic is starting to come to a close, the shift back into the workplace from virtual formats has taken a significant toll on workers’ mental health. Long periods of isolation during the lockdown and general anxiety over health concerns, among other crucial factors, have left America’s workforce deeply scarred. According to a KFF health tracking poll conducted in 2021, four in ten adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, up from one in ten in 2019. This startling jump in numbers emphasizes the importance of combating poor mental health in the workplace. It also raises the question of how employers will rise to the challenge.
Research has shown that when employees receive proper mental health care and services, the overall workplace sees an increase in productivity and a decrease in absenteeism. However, it goes far beyond just the benefit of these numbers. Creating mental health awareness and setting it as the main priority for a business can help employees reach their maximum potential and foster a healthy work setting. By showing that they care about the individuals that keep their business alive, employers can set a standard of comfort and success within their companies.
As seen in a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2018, millennials make up a large portion of the workforce. A related study conducted by Deloitte research stated only 38% of Millennials have openly spoken to their supervisors about stress-related anxiety. Even though Millenials report suffering from stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, there continues to be a hesitation surrounding being open about one’s mental health with other internal workers.
It is undeniable that the stigma around mental health has increasingly dissipated in recent decades. Yet, what about the workplace is different?
In the past, mental health resources were scarce at work. Now, older generations, who have higher-up positions in the company and never received those resources, rarely know how to implement them in their own spaces.
The first thing businesses can do to end the stigma around mental health is to raise awareness. So, how can companies instill changes in their work structures to better provide mental health resources to employees?
1. Make mental health training mandatory for company leaders.
a. Many universities and other institutions, nowadays, make students take pre-requisite mental health courses, among others such as on sexual harassment and substance abuse. These can create conversation in the workplace on topics discussed in the courses and create a well-informed community of leaders.
2. Include mental health as part of your company’s healthcare plan.
a. Providing mental health healthcare services within a company plan evens the playing field between mental health-related issues and other health issues that people have been more inclined to be open about in the past.
3. Promote wellness.
a. Emphasizing well-being amongst employees through flexible schedules, encouraging the use of vacation time, areas to relax in when needed, and more are all different ways to show employees that their health is a foremost priority.
The World Health Organization (WHO) approximated that anxiety and depression cost the global economy approximately $1 trillion per year due to the decreased productivity and other side effects of mental health tolls on employees. Each dollar put into increasing mental health resources is an investment into a company’s success and a positive future for all employees.