For a very long time, mental health has been ignored by the public around the world. However, as things started to change over the years and voices rose asking for inclusive growth of people with disabilities, those suffering from mental health issues still ended up with a raw deal. Most countries don’t acknowledge mental health as an important factor in the workplace, and even lesser acknowledge it as grounds for disability claims. As the number stack up, countries like Canada and USA have made provisions for their citizens to claim disability benefits, but is that the only thing that can be done to promote mental health in the workplace? Let’s find out.
The cost of mental ailments
In a report, the Mental Health Commission of Canada indicates that nearly 30 percent of Canadian youth between the age groups of 20-29 suffer from mental illness each year. By the age of 40, the number reaches as high as 50 percent. And this is just Canada alone.
According to a WHO report, nearly 25 percent of the global workforce suffers from mental ailments that cost nearly 200 million days of lost productivity and costs anywhere between $30-40 billion per year. This figure is expected to rise to $200 billion by 2040.
Promoting a healthy workplace
These numbers can be scary for any business. However, good thing is that all it needs is a few small changes in the workplace and at home to prevent the situation from snowballing. A reduction of merely 10 percent in the number of workers with mental illnesses can result in annual savings of more than $4 billion for large economies. One of the biggest contributors in this situation is work related stress. While stress alone does not cause mental illness, it does make it extremely difficult for individuals to cope with them.
Since mental illnesses are preventable with counselling, family support, proper education and timely intervention, this reduction seems attainable. Another WHO report argues that countries and businesses can save as much as 10-25 percent of their mental health care budgets with timely interventions and a supportive policy framework.
Making mental health an integral part of growth
In order to ensure that these factor related to mental health do not create an obstruction in the growth of your organisation, it becomes imperative to consider mental health as an integral part of your growth planning.
Take it slow
For employees returning from a leave of absence due to mental health issues, institute a policy that allows a gradual return to work with shorter days or fewer workdays per week if possible. It would allow them to adjust to the pace of work and reduce the risk of a relapse of illness.
Communicate with empathy
There is a lot of social stigma associated with mental illness in the workplace. Leaders need to demonstrate empathy in such cases and must emphasise to every employee that they must reach out to them immediately should they ever need to discuss any mental health concerns or problems.
Consider flexible work schedule for all employees. Every individual has their own productive time of the day, and more so for those suffering from mental illness as their medication might make them indisposed for some part of the day.
Providing access to mental wellness can make a huge difference in the bottom line of any organisation. Leaders must approach it with caution and empathy so that employees suffering from mental illness feel encouraged to make determined efforts to deal with them. It is only then that an organisation can build and sustain a strong business with the support of healthy and resilient employees.