Whatever your HR department or even employee-assistance program may be doing to address mental health issues in the workplace, it’s probably not enough. Actually, it’s definitely not enough.
As troubling and perhaps even hopeless as that sounds, it’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from a survey in which less than half of the respondents said they feel that mental health is given serious attention at their company.
Not surprisingly, fully 86 percent of the respondents said they thought that a company’s culture should, in fact, support mental health.
Yet while Americans’ attitudes about mental health are changing, there’s no question stigmas – and fears of job loss – persist. That’s why people often won’t seek treatment and are twice as likely to support a colleague’s mental health than to ever talk about their own challenges.
This isn’t a problem that’s going away. Consider that 60% of the respondents reported symptoms of a mental health condition in the past year. Worse yet, fully half of millennials and 75% of Gen Zers said they had voluntarily left job roles due to mental health reasons.
What company can afford to lose employees at a time when unemployment is at historic lows?
Speaking of “affording” things, consider that 217 million days are lost every year due to absenteeism and presenteeism costs related to mental health conditions. The National Business Group on Health estimates this translates to $16.8 billion in lost productivity every year.
The new survey, conducted by Mind Share Partners and Qualtrics, notes that conversations about workplace mental health in the U.S. are beginning to take place. However, those conversations are often narrowly focused on stress and burnout.
So, what can employers do? How can they improve the state of mental health at their workplace?
For starters, it’s clear employees want a more open and accepting culture, which we all know starts at the top.
Only 37% of the survey’s respondents said they viewed their company’s leaders as advocates for mental health at work.
In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, here’s how Mind Share CEO Kelly Greenwood and her co-authors described the job ahead for corporate leaders.
“The CEO … has an important role to play here. … Given its prevalence, as well as employees’ desire for their companies to address mental health, CEOs can no longer afford to ignore it. Instead, they should serve as the normalizers-in-chief of mental health challenges, with support from their CHROs, to help build a culture of acceptance that permeates their organizations.”
There’s more that employers can do – the list includes training, employee surveys, adding health benefits, for example – but without c-suite support, progress will be hard to come by indeed.
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