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Five Areas to Improve Workplace Mental Health
In many companies, mental healthcare is the forgotten stepchild of medical benefits, mentioned as maybe a line or two in a different part of an enrollment presentation from those affecting the rest of the body, as if the brain were somehow an organ separate from the whole.
Now, a new study shows businesses holding this attitude toward mental health benefits do so at their own peril.
The study, conducted by Gartner for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), showed that 41 percent of U.S. employees would consider leaving their current job for a position with “significantly better” mental health benefits.
This should give every HR professional pause.
The truth is, many American workers aren't doing so hot these days. The Gartner study that produced this 41 percent result comes as part of an overall report that revealed one in three U.S. employees say their job has had a negative impact on their mental health over the past six months. A full 30 percent saying their job has made them feel overwhelmed, and 29 percent said it has made them feel anxious at least once a week. The study was released May 1 to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Month.
Why It Matters
Put in this context, it’s not surprising that 41 percent of workers would likely hop to another job if it provided better mental healthcare. This isn’t about the job. It’s about the link between brain health and total-body health.
According to the National Institutes of Health, people with depression have increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, pain and Alzheimer’s Disease, among many other conditions. Research also suggests people with depression may be at higher risk for osteoporosis, although the link isn’t yet clear.
Conditions linked to anxiety disorders are just as many and potentially severe.
What this speaks to for business leaders and HR professionals is the need to put mental healthcare front and center in benefits presentations and recruiting efforts. It’s no longer enough to talk about work/life balance and then, once the employee arrives and starts working, have him or her find out the walk is far different from the talk.
Five Factors – And Action Steps
The Gartner research revealed five factors that most greatly influence employee mental health, as well as some action steps employers can take to help their teams.
Financial security: Employees are worried about their job security, reduced purchasing power and burnout. Action Steps: Retirement benefits like robust 401(k) matches and financial wellness programs and counseling.
Living situation: Remote and hybrid work can lead to loneliness or tense relationships at home. Action Steps: Flexible work policies that give employees more control; employee resource groups for remote workers; off-the-clock events to boost socialization.
Work setting: Toxic work cultures, conflicts with co-workers and change fatigue all happen in bad work settings. Action Steps: Conflict-resolution training; employee resilience coaching.
Physical health: Employees report their own health struggles or the challenge of acting as caregiver for another adult. Action Steps: Quality health insurance that incentivizes proactive wellness; an employee assistance fund to provide financial help to workers experiencing a setback such as a medical emergency.
Lifestage demands: Whether a recent graduate or a C-suite executive, everyone has expectations placed on them particular to their stage in life. Action Steps: Mentoring programs that link younger employees with more experienced employees to help them navigate through various life stages.
The truth about the mental health of the average company’s workforce is sobering and sad. It demonstrates the stigma that prevents people from talking about mental health still exists. Companies that offer robust mental healthcare options and that promote them vigorously do their part to help fight the stigma.
To figure out what mental health benefits are right for your business, talk to an expert HR consultant today. The experts at Envision Benefits Group can help you review your current offering and make recommendations on how to better care for your employees to promote a healthier culture and improved retention.
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