Around the world, workers are reporting feeling more exhausted and stressed out at work than ever before. We all have good days and bad days, but an increasing number of employees are suffering from debilitating, yet common mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

Not only do mental health issues reduce employee wellbeing, they also cost employers in the form of higher health costs, more unscheduled absences, and lower productivity. One workplace study found a “strong linear relationship between depression symptom severity and the combination of work loss and productivity impairment.” Even minor depression symptoms were associated with a considerable loss of productivity.

Mental health at work affects employee wellbeing

It is well established that employees with higher levels of wellbeing are also more productive and happy at their jobs. Emotional/mental health is one of the five major types of wellbeing:

  1. Physical wellbeing is how well your body works and your state of physical health.

  2. Emotional wellbeing involves resiliency and the ability to cope with stress and sadness.

  3. Workplace wellbeing depends on whether work provides meaning and enriches life.

  4. Social wellbeing is how well you form relationships with others to overcome loneliness.

  5. Societal wellbeing involves being part of a supportive, healthy community and culture.

As you can see, mental health at the workplace actually crosses several of these categories of wellbeing to include workplace, social and emotional wellbeing.

The global cost of depression and anxiety

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently studied the cost of mental health in the global economy. Globally, about 264 million people suffer from depression, and it is among the leading causes of disability. The report concluded that depression costs the world’s employers $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. In fact, Willis Towers Watson found that people suffering from mental health issues submit two to four times as many medical claims–an average of $14,967 per year for depressed individuals versus $5,929 for the population at large.

Depression can occur with or without anxiety disorders, which are another leading cause of global disability. On average, anxiety disorders cost employers 4.6 work days per month lost to disability, and anxiety-ridden employees have double the risk of exhibiting poor work performance.

Mental health and employment benefits

Although it is clear that employee mental health issues create costly productivity losses for employers, there is good news: The WHO found that for every $1 invested in treating mental disorders, $4 was gained in improved health and productivity.Here are some of the benefits employers often provide to support mental health in the workplace and reduce employee stress:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

  • Health insurance with mental health coverage

  • Paid time off

  • Access to a 24-hour mental health hotline

  • Relaxing spaces within the workplace where employees can de-stress

  • Stress-reduction classes and techniques

  • Programs that help employees manage stressful situations outside the office, including flexible schedules, child care assistance, financial literacy classes, or elder care leave

Should employers provide mental health leave from work?

In the U.S., workers take an estimated 400 million days off work due to depression each year.Unscheduled absences like this can be costly and disruptive to employers.

On the positive side, a mental health day sometimes helps an employee to relieve stress, lower anxiety, and recharge for better future performance. Should employers reconsider their leave policies to encourage occasional unscheduled absences when employees need a break? Are mental health days legal? Some companies are relaxing their rules for paid time off in order to afford employees an occasional mental health day.

From a legal perspective, mental health leave is covered under the U.S. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employers may request a doctor’s certification before approving leave. Employers must also be aware of laws, such as the ADA in the U.S. or the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, that prohibit any type of workplace discrimination based on mental health disabilities. These laws also require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

Support employee mental health and emotional wellbeing

Employee mental health at work can have a significant impact on team morale, productivity, healthcare costs, and the overall wellbeing of your workforce. It benefits both companies and their employees when employers provide a well-designed package of mental health benefits to their workers. Asure Software offers human capital management solutions that help employers manage and administer benefits programs in order to support employees’ health and happiness.

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