Employers HAVE to Change Mindset on Mental Health

Stress levels at work on the rise. It may be that people are more comfortable discussing stress today than in previous years, it may be that there are increasing stressors at work today compared with yesterday, or it may be that stress mitigation techniques are waning. Whatever the cause, stress at work is a BIG problem. 

An employer in an industry that employs younger adults with college degrees and a family is much more likely to have stressed out employees that a company that employs older adults with no family and no college degree. 

Mental Health is an Employee’s Problem, Right?

Wrong! Companies have for years, just put the responsibility onto the employee. This may be for the following reasons:

  • Taboo in talking about mental health concerns.
  • Perception that people don’t want to discuss concerns. 
  • Perception that it’s not the employers issue, but rather the employee’s problem. 
  • Error in thinking that everyone has stress, so doesn’t warrant discussion. 
  • Error in thinking that if an employer supports mental health outside of work that the employee will seek out help. 

Most US adults say that they wouldn’t mind discussing their mental health concerns with a professional, but only about 35% will actually initiate a conversation with their primary care provider.  60% of employees have never spoken to ANYONE at work about their mental health status

Even worse than the number of employees talking about the problem is the perception that employers don’t care. Less than ½ of employees felt that mental health was prioritized at their company, according to one study.

Why Should Employers Care?

Over 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year, which is $16.8 billion in employee productivity. I don’t know about your business, but if I saw those kind of numbers on lost dollars for faulty parts, unnecessary transportation, administrative waste, or other costs, I would certainly want to address the problem quickly. ½ of millennials and 75% of Gen Zers left roles in the past for mental health reasons.

Maybe your company is too altruistic to worry about money. What about your employee’s opinions? A whopping 86% of employees think that a company should “support mental health.”

Either you run a tight shift and want to make money and drive done costs OR you care about your employees and want to build an amazing culture and employee family, but either way, it’s obvious that employers should care. 

Workplace stress leads to physical health problems too, which increases health insurance costs and leads to lost wages from physical problems.

Mental Health ONLY involves a small percent, RIGHT?

WRONG! 80% of us will manage a mental health condition at some point in our lives. The chances that the employers have had a mental health condition themselves are very high. AND 60% of employees have experience symptoms of a mental health condition with the last year. 

The idea that only a small group of people are experiencing mental health problems, but that this small group costs a lot of money to employers and society is ABSOLUTELY WRONG!

Mental health impacts all of us, either directly or indirectly. 

What have we learned?

  • Many or most employees attributed stress and anxiety to work.
  • Many or most employees will experience a mental health condition in their lives.
  • Employers are losing a lot of money and talent, due to unaddressed mental health.
  • Employees want to see employers addressing the problem. 

How do we move forward?

Wellness is the way! Human resources is NOT the place to address mental health. Employers need partners in creating true wellness at work. 

  • Treat mental health like a spectrum, which includes everyone at work. 
  • Identify key sources of stress and communicate plans to reduce stress at work. 
  • Recognize people’s individual goals, motivation, and plans for the future.
  • Create workplace wellness programs that address the mind, body AND soul. 
  • Look for opportunities to help families, like meal planning, take home meals, etc.
  • Create workout facilities at work and paid time to exercise. 
  • Encourage social support networks at work and outside company get togethers.
  • Schedule daily quiet time for reflection, meditation, prayer and de-stress. 
  • Create a family culture where people feel supported from the top-down!
  • Offer ways to detoxify from alcohol, smoking, and drugs.
  • Support religious obligations of employees with time off, “no questions asked” policies.
  • Offer counseling services at work and encourage everyone to go. 

We can do this!

The exciting part is for the first time in forever we are finally talking about mental health!! I recognize that most of us are still uncomfortable, but we are moving in the right direction. 

It’s on all of us to keep pushing, until mental health and emotional wellness is as common is routine maintenance on your vehicle: new tires, rotation, oil change. We all need preventative maintenance on our emotional wellness. 

It starts with culture, love and support. People don’t care what you know OR how much you are going to pay them, until they know that you care and will love them like a family member. Companies that get this will out-compete every single company that doesn’t for the precious new talent of the Millenials and Gen Zers. 

It’s a brave new world out there. I dare companies to be BOLD and seek new ways of addressing mental health and stress at work. Bold companies CAN and WILL change the World. 

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