Why Your Business Should Take Mental Health Seriously

Mental Health Workplace Resilience Stress Management

Until recently, mental health in the workplace hasn’t been given attention to. The social stigma linked to any mental health disorder was more than sufficient enough for anyone to warrant unreported cases in the workplace. Nonetheless, mental health issues and concerns are, in fact, extremely prevalent.

What is Mental Health?

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes a positive mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual can cope up with the normal stresses of life, realize his or her own potential, and work effectively or fruitfully, as well as be able to contribute to the community.”

The organization also mentioned, “Employees with a positive mental health can perform better at the workplace.”

Mental Health At The Workplace

It is not uncommon for a mental health concern, as simple as stress, in the workplace to be treated with suspicion or a certain degree of cynicism. An unhelpful and negative climate persists due to close-mindedness and ignorance that surrounds the topic of mental illness. Most of us have felt this concept but still find them challenging to explain and understand.

According to a National Health Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 7.3 million of Australians between the ages of 16-85 years will have a mental health condition at some point in their lives. That accounts for almost half of the population at 45%. These numbers represent the working population, who may or may not have jobs. With this percentage, it is not possible to escape the reality that mental health problems can, and probably will, emerge in almost any workplace in Australia.

Mental Health Impact

An estimate of $10.9 billion healthcare costs each year is attributable to untreated mental health illnesses. Half of this healthcare cost covers $6.1 billion for presenteeism, $4.7 billion for absenteeism, and approximately $146 million for workers compensation claims. Such costs reflect how expensive mental health concerns are to employers, and to the society at large.

Financial impacts aside, the true influence of ignored and mismanaged mental health issues can also be viewed in terms of increased accidents at work, decreased productivity, poor performance, increasing absenteeism and presenteeism at the workplace.

Absenteeism is simply defined as a pattern of not attending a scheduled work. Recent statistics show that one out of five Australian employees report that they had taken the time off from work due to anxiety, stress, depression, or other mental health concerns.

Obviously, an employee not showing up has costs for everyone. The employee loses an income, co-workers may have additional stress from the heavier workload, and employers also have to deal with the replacement of employees and decrease of productivity.

Albeit sometimes hidden, absenteeism may have significant costs that many business employers would just want to avoid. And because of that, most of the policies, regulations, and practices at the workplace are designed to curtail absenteeism. A situation that could, in fact, encourages attendance of employees while being sick.

Presenteeism, a growing subject of interest, on the other hand, is generally defined as attending work while feeling ill. Unlike absenteeism, employees continue to come to work and still can result to lower productivity and poor performance level.

Although the real effects of presenteeism are difficult to quantify as opposed to absenteeism, symptoms can easily be observed by monitoring impaired productivity. In today’s work environment, employees who are ill may continue to work and hide their illnesses due to fear, but they can’t hide the fact that there is something wrong.

From an employee’s viewpoint, presenteeism is crucial for it might intensify existing medical ailments, worsen the condition, harm the quality of their performance at work, and lead to negative connotations at work, which may be branded as “incompetence”. Furthermore, with an unaddressed or undeclared mental illness, it is more problematic and complicated because presenteeism can also cause workplace accidents.

Productivity and Performance

There is no doubt that a mentally healthy working environment can boost good performance and productivity. A positive psychosocial climate can help promote camaraderie and teamwork, increase employees’ morale, and stimulate proper communication between individuals at the workplace. Staff turnover can be lower as a result, and so are the accompanying expenses of training, and recruitment.

Chronic and physical disorders

There are many studies that can prove that “there is no health without mental health”. Correlational analyses show pieces of evidence that stress or poor mental health can lead to a wide variety of chronic and physical disorders. These include diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases. These conditions are major workplace issues that just verify that mental health and wellbeing is important to any business.

Mental health promotion

Absenteeism and presenteeism are just some of the reasons why businesses should make mental health promotion a priority. Mental health and well being of employees is a significant health determinant. In today’s global economy, the business paradigm for mental health is compelling as it is an essential driver for success in the world of business.

By taking a step towards mental health awareness to your work environment and offering support to your employees, you can reduce workplace problems and prevent loss of productivity.

Good practice: Workplace activities for mental health promotion

There are a lot of interventions that can promote mental health to develop resilience to stress and overall well-being amongst employees. Long-term effects can be achieved primarily with early intervention. These include health promotion strategies, prevention techniques, and a combination of various teaching programs in coordination with individuals that are responsible and trained for specific business level and requirements.

The costs of poor mental health are significant and the causes are multifaceted and are quite complex. Good employers need to consider not just the physical health of employees, but also mental health problems. The working environment is a significant factor in overall health and is fundamental to the solution.

If we examine it thoroughly and try to understand the business case and the potential costs associated with mental health concerns, the need to tackle this subject is vital and the potential benefits are remarkable.

References:

  • Harnois, Gaston and Phyllis Gabriel. “Mental health and work: Impact, issues and good practices.” WHO | World Health Organization. Web. 14 Nov 2017. <http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/712.pdf>.
  • Knifton, Lee, Verona Watson, Rob Gründemann, Anja Dijkman, Heleen Den Besten and Kristin Ten Have. “A guide for employers. To promote mental health in the workplace.” ENWHP European Network For Workplace Health Promotion.TNO, Mar 2011. Web. 14 Nov 2017. <http://www.enwhp.org/fileadmin/downloads/8th_Initiative/MentalHealth_Broschuere_Arbeitgeber.pdf>.
  • Jay, T., & Hersen, M. Handbook of Mental Health in the Workplace. SAGE Publications.
  • Johns, Gary. “Presenteeism in the workplace: A review and research agenda.” Journal of Organizational Behavior. (2009): DOI: 10.1002/job.630 Web.<http://www.mas.org.uk/uploads/artlib/presenteeism-in-the-workplace-review-and-research-agenda-johns-2010.pdf>.
  • Johns, Gary. “Absenteeism or Presenteeism? Attendance Dynamics and Employee Well‐Being.” The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Well Being. : Oxford University Press, 2008-11-13. Oxford Handbooks Online. 2009-09-02. Date Accessed 15 Nov. 2017 <http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199211913.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199211913-e-002>.
  • Heads Up Org Australia. “State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia.” HeadsUpOrg.Au. Web. 14 Nov 2017. <http://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/bl1270-report—tns-the-state-of-mental-health-in-australian-workplaces-hr.pdf?sfvrsn=8>.
  • PwC. “Creating a mentally healthy workplace: return on investment analysis”. Web. 14 Nov 2017. <http://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/resources/beyondblue_workplaceroi_finalreport_may-2014.pdf>
  • “National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007.” Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Government. Web. 14 Nov 2017. <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4326.0Main%20Features32007>.
  • “NSW Business Chamber – NSW Business Chamber – Maximising your business potential.” The most powerful investment you can make in productivity. Web. 15 Nov 2017. <http://www.nswbusinesschamber.com.au/Media-Centre/Resources/The-most-powerful-investment-you-can-make-in-produ>.
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