For many of us, we spend more time at our jobs than we do at home. Or at least that’s how it seems. We go in early or stay late, or answer emails well into the evening after the kids have gone to bed. It’s not surprising that more than two-thirds of Americans are unhappy with their jobs, according to Mental Health America. An unhappy work environment is bad for both employers and employees alike. When we aren’t happy at work, productivity declines, burnout increases, and it takes a toll outside of the workplace on our relationships as well as on our physical health and mental health.
On the job, 1 in 5 employees will experience a mental health condition each year, according to a recent report by SAMHSA. Translated into the workplace, according to Forbes, serious mental illnesses cause $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year. And it isn’t just in the United States. In Canada, the loss of productivity at work due to mental illness-related absenteeism and presenteeism (working while unwell) adds up to $6.3 (CA) billion annually across the country. The report in Deloitte Insights goes on to say that 30 out of every 1,000 workers miss working for mental health reasons on a weekly basis.
So, what can be done to create a mentally healthy workplace? According to Inc. columnist Amy Morin, LCSW, there are a few simple steps that can be implemented to help employees stay as healthy as possible.
- Promote work/life balance. Encourage staff to use their vacation time and unplug from their work. Everyone needs to have healthy outlets outside of the workplace.
- Discuss mental health. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Educate yourself, educate staff, and educate managers about how to respond properly to someone who may be struggling.
- Offer free screening tools. Many mental health issues go untreated because people either don’t know or ignore the signs and symptoms. Mental Health America offers free screening tools on their website. https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools
- Talk about EAP benefits often. Remind employees about accessing the EAP. It is a free and completely confidential service that can help with anything from managing work stress to dealing with relationship issues.
- Make wellness a priority. Many companies now have wellness committees and partner with programs through health insurance providers that try to encourage healthier lifestyles. Self-care is an important tool for building mental strength and improving mental health.
- Reduce stigma. Mental health is very treatable. Employers can help reduce the stigma by emphasizing the importance of self-care and stress management. Also, watching the language we use about mental health can go a long way to reducing the stigma. The brain is the most complicated organ in the body, we need to take care of it the same way we take care of our heart or our lungs, or any other organ.