Gone are the days when mental health was simply an issue to be brushed under the rug—times have changed. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with Prince Harry are vocal about tackling the stigma and changing the conversation as part of their Heads Together campaign. And singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen has discussed his struggle with depression in both interviews and his 2016 memoir, “Born to Run.”
In a given year, 43.8 million American adults experience mental illness. Globally, the number of people suffering from depression totals more than 300 million. Mental health conditions are common, but the topic can be hard to discuss, especially at work. And while the holidays are a joyous time for many, they can extremely difficult for those dealing with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.
Depression: Cost of Absenteeism
A good employer should care about the mental health of their employees. And since an employer’s job is also to watch their bottom line, they should understand the impact mental health issues can have on business. Depression alone accounts for over $51 billion in absenteeism from work and lost productivity.
Here are some ways employers can support the mental health of their employees:
- Mental Health Days: Just like physical health, mental health should be a priority. Employers should offer employees at least one paid mental health day a year. This isn’t the same as taking a sick day—which relates to physical health—it is about improving mental health. Most importantly, employees should never be penalized for asking for, or taking, mental health days.
- Wellness Programs: If your company has a wellness program, utilize its resources. Many wellness programs have components promoting mental well-being, including challenges, activities, and educational materials. Some wellness programs also offer coaching and guidance from licensed professionals.
- Workplace Counseling: Offering employees on-site, confidential counseling is an appealing workplace perk. It shows that, as an employer, you understand the struggle employees face when juggling the hectic work-life balance. The convenience of on-site counseling will also appeal to busy employees who might not have time to attend counseling otherwise.
- Fitness Discounts: Exercise is an important component of mental health, and studies have shown physical activity can reduce stress. Offering employees a discounted or subsidized gym membership is another attractive work perk, and it supports both the mental and physical health of employees.
- Mind Breaks: Whether your employees spend eight hours staring at a computer screen or eight hours running a production line, their minds deserve a break. Consider introducing daily activities that encourage employees to step away for their responsibilities to take a chance to mentally reset. At Viverae®, we perform two-minute drills twice daily. Whether it’s a walk around the building or two minutes of squats, the daily break from the grind is welcomed by all.
Mental health is a hard topic for an employee to broach with their employer, and vice versa. Even though mental health issues may affect productivity, employees are unlikely to discuss them, whether due to fear of losing their job or being viewed as incompetent. Employers have a real opportunity to show compassion and offer support when it comes to their employees’ mental health.