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The Cost Of Ignoring Mental Health In The Workplace

This article was originally published by Carley Sime at Forbes

Depression is thought to count for up to 400 million lost work days annually

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S – that’s 18.5% of the population – experience mental illness each year

The UK

Within the UK, mental health problems in the workplace cost the economy approximately £70 billion annually

91 million workdays are lost in the UK due to symptoms of mental illness

These figures highlight how many people are struggling with mental health challenges and how that’s affecting their daily lives. They also show how much money is lost as a result of this. It’s currently a lose, lose situation. There is some good news though, the WHO has estimated that for every $1 invested into the treatment and support of mental health disorders sees a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. In another review on mental health and employers, researchers found that for every £1 businesses invest in mental health training programmes they can see a return of up to £10. These programmes work to improve the culture around mental health in the workplace, better train managers and overarching this seek to reduce stigma related to mental health.

If this is the case, then investing in supporting training and treatment for mental health is clearly a no-brainer. Employees will benefit and in turn, so will the business. Organizations aren’t much without their workforce so some may argue that their wellbeing has to be a priority because of the vast individual, organizational and economic cost when it isn’t.

So how can organizations better support the wellbeing and mental health of their employees? The Shaw Mind Foundation, which supports mental health at work, suggests that there are a lot of changes businesses can make. They provide 5 small changes that cost a minimal amount but are thought to improve an employee’s wellbeing considerably:

  1. Enforce working hours. This can be done by limiting out-of-hours work and encouraging reduced email access outside of office hours
  2. If possible avoid employees working in a solely isolated way. If they are working from home extensively make sure there are regular check-ins, contact and helpful communication
  3. Set attainable deadlines and spread workloads equally and fairly across employees and teams
  4. Provide support services and staff members who have had training in mental health and workplace stress. Make sure this support is known about
  5. Promote healthy eating and regular exercise

They also share some potential warning signs employers can look out for that may hint at an employee experiencing a drop in their mental health:

  • Changes in mood, these can be unexpected and sudden
  • A drop in work rate, missing deadlines and deliverables
  • Trouble focusing, this could take many forms including asking repetitive questions
  • Anxious and fidgety behavior

It’s important to note that while these signs could be because an employee is struggling with their mental health they could also be caused by other issues. If possible, The Shaw Mind Foundation suggest that employers avoid making assumptions, have an honest conversation but respect the privacy boundaries of their employees. The ultimate goal is to find a way to best assist the employee and in doing so it’s more than likely that the organization will be positively benefited also.

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