The US had a big mental health crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic. Today it is estimated that one in five Americans experiences a mental illness, and it’s estimated that one in 25 live with a serious mental illness. This was made worse by the pandemic because there was a lot of stress and uncertainty during the pandemic. This caused many people to develop symptoms of depression and anxiety. Survivors of the virus also faced increased mental health risks including anxiety, depression, substance abuse disorders, and suicidal thoughts.
Many companies have become more supportive of and focused on mental health because of the pandemic. Companies focus on mental health in lots of different ways. Companies can offer mental health services to clients, make services easier to access and encourage their own employees to take mental health breaks and days off. However, there are still many challenges that companies will have to overcome during these times.
Challenges Facing Companies
Every company should care about the mental health of their employees. Caring for others is basic human decency. But that is not the only reason companies should care about mental health. There are many business incentives for companies to do so. There are also many direct and indirect costs of not caring about mental health. This is why companies should take the mental health of their employees very seriously. Some common challenges facing the corporate world include:
- Absenteeism: Depression makes employees feel unmotivated. Depressed employees will miss work more often than those who don’t suffer from depression. It’s estimated that absenteeism related to depression and other mental health conditions accounts for 7% of global payroll. That’s more than all other disorders. Companies that support mental health see less absenteeism. This means they lose less of their payroll.
- Presenteeism: Presenteeism refers to productivity losses and bad job performance. It can be an even bigger loss to employers than absenteeism. Some estimate it costs companies three to four times more.
- Healthcare: Employer-based insurance is more expensive for employees with mental health issues than those without.
Companies that support mental health are better prepared to face these challenges. They are also much less likely to encounter them. Companies should also focus on mental health because it will help them keep their good employers.
How to Be an Ally
Companies that support mental health are allies for their employees. Allyship means more than offering treatment options in healthcare packages. It means more than telling staff they should be taking mental health days off. Companies can show this allyship in many different ways. Being an ally means taking the time to understand concerns and where employees are coming from. Companies that better understand their employees can then make changes and be more accommodating. This shows employees that their employer listens and will make changes based on what they hear.
Want to be an ally like other companies focused on mental health? Here are some things to consider:
- Give employees credit for their ideas and share their good ideas with the company
- Talk about what makes your employees so great when you have the opportunity
- Recommend great employees for a promotion, raise, or recognition
- Create a structure for meetings that allows all employees to have a chance to speak and be heard
- Put in the effort to understand those with different experiences by listening and asking questions
- Speak up about the importance of mental health
- Call out degrading or offensive behavior in office interactions
Mental Health Support Systems in the Era of Remote Work
It is much harder to address the needs of remote employees. However, it is still important to do so. Companies that were supportive of mental health before the pandemic were able to find ways to include remote people digitally. In the two years since many companies that support mental health have adopted some of these practices. These practices include:
- Telehealth appointments. These appointments connect employees to mental health professionals through an online portal
- Virtual care smartphone apps that can help employees with their sleeping habits, exercise habits, mental resilience, and overall mental health and well-being
- Virtual classes, courses, and seminars centered around mental health
Bayless Integrated Healthcare is as invested in the health of our community as you are in your employees. Read more here about our employee wellness program, and contact us today to sign up!