It’s a known fact that, at any given moment, 1 in 4 adults suffer from a mental health illness. Yet transparency is still a huge issue, both personally and professionally. Suffice it to say admitting we need help can be difficult.
In many ways, 2022 was a game-changer in addressing mental health in the workplace. For the first time, organisations and high-profile professionals came forward to discuss their strategies for becoming more open to mental health in the workplace and improving their employee experience. As we move into the next quarter of 2023, it is crucial to have the same momentum, much in the same way we have with movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.
An exhaustive study by Workable Surveys revealed that 92% of employees experienced a mental health challenge, which impacts their work. It would be naïve to negate that these challenges only affect the quality of work produced: friends, family, and even relationships in the workplace would be, also. Yet, many are avoiding the situation at hand.
The phrase “mental health” is haunted by stigma, no matter where or with whom it’s mentioned. Culture clashes and huge age gaps between employees have caused us to avoid the subject entirely. With that in mind, is it a mystery that discussing mental health in the workplace has gone amiss? For 56% of employees, stress and mental health in the workplace are key deciding factors in whether or not they remain in their current positions. This is a significant growth compared to four years ago when it was only a deciding factor for 40% of employees.
Whilst companies are becoming more open and transparent, over 35% of business leaders have not yet approached their employees on improving mental health practices.
So why is it valuable to be transparent about mental health in the workplace?
There are benefits both from an employee experience and a business development perspective. Simply talking about mental health in the workplace is not always the best solution. Actions speak louder than words. From an employee perspective, having specific processes to help with any mental health challenges can improve productivity, lower sick days taken and helps them feel valued by their leaders. Given that we spend at least one-third of our lives at work, business leaders must take the time to ensure that the level of care for their employees is first-rate. After all, ignoring the problem can result in employees burning themselves out.
If employees feel as though they are truly valued by the company they work for, they’ll also be more likely to be loyal to the business ultimately improving employee retention.
Being transparent and improving mental health policies has a significant benefit for a business’ ROI; on average, $1.68 is saved per employee for every mentoring programme or process that’s in place. Furthermore, businesses that have outstanding mental health policies are globally recognised: Pinterest, Barclays, and even Unilever have implemented various processes, which have witnessed their employee productivity grow as well as their market value. Of course, there comes a cost in running in-person workshops and hiring speakers, for example, but in the long term, these will help a business boom in the current market. Whilst that is a small cost, unaddressed mental health challenges can cause a business to lose anywhere between $17 to $44 billion a year. With employee morale and revenue at a low, it becomes impossible for a business to grow or even maintain a good reputation, which can encourage stress, anxiety and depression.
As we move forward into 2023, it’s important to assess how we approach neurodiversity in a business environment. Workplace culture needs to become more adaptable as the world rapidly evolves, or risk perpetuating a stigma which is built to disadvantage everyone.
Gee Stencel | They/Them
Strategic Operations Manager