Guest Post from Dale Vernor:
Dale is a writer and researcher in the field of mental health and substance abuse. Dale believes in writing about these topics to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with them. Dale earned his Bachelor’s in Communication and has been writing for a living ever since. When not working you can look for Dale on your local basketball court.
According to statistics from the Center for Workplace Mental Health, the United States loses more than $210 billion every year due to unresolved mental health issues at work. The study also indicates that on average 6-7% of full-time workers experience major depression every year.
The high cost that results from unresolved employee psychological issues points to a serious problem in the workplace that needs to be addressed. Employers have consistently focused on physical health at the expense of the mental well being of their employees.
The indirect costs associated with mental health are:
- Absenteeism: The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 3% of employees are absent from work every year. The costs of absenteeism amount to about $4 billion annually.
- Additional Costs: Untreated mental health issues compound the problem of lost productivity. Since most employers do not properly focus on the problem at hand.
- Lost Productivity: Loss in productivity is as a result of both absenteeism and workplace stress. Presenteeism is responsible for more than 80% loss in productivity.
How Mental Health Impacts Work
Mental health issues tend to trigger psychological distress. It can impact work in a number of different ways:
- Handling Workloads: Employees with mental health issues may find it hard to deal with multiple tasks or meet deadlines. The psychological distress may cause individuals to procrastinate or fail to complete tasks with the same level of efficiency.
- Focus and Concentration: Mental conditions such as anxiety and depression prevent employees from properly focusing on the problem. They may have trouble remembering instructions or may be easily distracted.
- Negative Feedback: Mental distress can prevent staff from responding to negative feedback. In some instances, the employee can sink further into depression or anxiety. Negative feedback can, therefore, cause low self-esteem, lack of motivation and poor performance.
- Social Health: Social health can also be affected by distress. The condition can make them reserved about interacting with others to brainstorm and find solutions to problems. This can jeopardize teamwork. According to one study, interactions at the workplace was identified as one of the most critical issues for the organization.
- Response to Changes at Work: Due to lack of motivation, concentration, and low self-esteem, the individual is not in a position to respond effectively to new rules, procedures or changes in the system. With changes happening rapidly in the digital world, failure to adjust effectively will cause a massive loss at work.
Support Strategies for People with Mental Conditions
It is important for employers to acknowledge that mental health intervention is beneficial to both the members of staff and the organization. Studies show that tens of billions of dollars can be saved if organizations paid more attention to the issue.
In particular, organizations should focus on early intervention or prevention whenever possible. The costs associated with treating mental illness after the symptoms have intensified is much higher than what would be spent on prevention. Furthermore, employees will appreciate the effort as long as the employer demonstrates sensitivity when addressing mental health conditions.
Empathy and Compassion
There is a lot of stigmas associated with mental health. Employees are therefore afraid to disclose their condition to their employers. In uncertain economic times, they feel that this could lead to a job loss thereby causing them even more distress. Studies show that concealing mental and physical disabilities was fairly common for fear of losing their jobs.
Therefore, leaders need to show compassion when talking to employees about their condition. Bosses may be tempted to give instructions and orders to employees who have a psychological disability. However, the organization and the staff will be better served by a more compassionate approach.
Promoting a Healthy Work Environment
The workplace is where we spend at least a third of our daily lives. It is where most people meet friends, colleagues, and even future life partners. Promoting a healthy work environment can have a positive impact on both the productivity of staff and their psychological health.
Organizations can improve the work environment in the following ways:
- Flexibility: One of the biggest causes of distress in the workplace is a failure to strike the right amount of work-life balance. According to one survey, flexibility can improve the quality of work, collaboration and overall employee satisfaction.
- Communication: Employees need to feel that their concerns will be taken seriously by their superiors. They will also be in a better position to talk about their mental health issues without fear of stigma.
- Empower Staff: This includes giving incentives for efforts geared toward self-improvement. It is also critical to ensure that team members are given clearly defined goals.
- Promote mental and Physical Wellness: Preventing wellness with a focus on prevention can reduce the overall costs of health care.
- Workplace Design: A lot of effort should be placed on ensuring that the workplace is fun and enjoyable. The organization needs to show employees that they can be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they focus on the objectives.
Identifying Psychological Issues
To prevent mental health issues and ensure early intervention is available to employees, the employer needs to develop the capacity to identify mental health problems as soon as they arise. Some of the common symptoms of psychological distress are:
- Productivity: The individual may show signs of uncharacteristic behavior, such as an inability to complete tasks that they would otherwise complete efficiently.
- Focus and Concentration: Employees may fail to concentrate and focus on tasks.
- Lethargy: Lack of motivation, significant shifts in work patterns at work.
- Unusual Behaviors: This may include a decline in personal care, social withdrawal, and loss of interest in colleagues, as well as odd thinking and mood swings.
Mental health issues in the workplace are treatable. Psychological intervention has been shown to result in 23% improvements in effectiveness, about the fifth reduction in conflicts and 37% improvement in the development of mental health coping mechanisms. Prevention and early intervention is the ideal strategy that organizations should adopt for the mutual gain of the employer and the staff. Finding holistic treatment centers near you can help in this pursuit.