The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace
In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the way employees are conducting their work. Many businesses have shifted to a more at-home work approach. Employees have had to weigh their options regarding getting vaccinated and returning to work in person. This has all contributed to a mental health pandemic of sorts. More people are suffering from things like anxiety and depression and don’t know where to turn.
Employee Mental Health
Something positive to come out of the pandemic is that we’re starting to talk more about mental health. This is a topic that used to be taboo not too long ago. We’re learning that when someone asks us how we’re doing, it’s acceptable to express that we haven’t been feeling like ourselves lately or that we’re struggling with anxiety. Instead of hiding who we are and what we deal with in our minds, our mental health challenges can be something that we talk about openly with people we know. Just as employers stress the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, eating right and working out, it has become important to ensure that an employee’s mental health is stable. There is more help available than ever.
This far into the pandemic, workers are experiencing even more stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression and agitation than they did six months into 2020. This had led to an increase in sleep issues, anger problems, food addiction and substance misuse.
Anxiety can come from many different scenarios. Some people experience social anxiety when they go out into a public setting. Anxiety can come from PTSD after a traumatic event, and the circumstances surrounding COVID have been a traumatic event for many. Other people have deep-rooted issues from their childhood that have developed into anxiety in their adulthood. The pandemic has brought about its own level of anxiety that many people have experienced to varying degrees.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were a lot of people who experienced anxiety about their safety and health. For businesses that were still operating on an in-person basis, it was stressful for people to go into work wondering if they were going to get sick. Some people didn’t have the choice to work from home. People in health care have experienced severe trauma from working in a setting where they are at risk. They pose a risk to their family at home, and they are seeing and dealing with devastating situations at work each day. These are situations where people need mental health support in order to continue being able to work while still processing and healing from what they are going through.
Employers Providing Mental Health Resources
The mental health of an employee directly relates to the success of a business. Many people who suffer from mental health issues will miss work because of them. Some people have panic attacks that prevent them from getting to work on time, or they have to leave early for the day because of an unexpected panic-based experience that they are having.
Other people suffer from depressive episodes that keep them from getting out of bed in the morning with ease. The CDC has reported that an employee missing work decreases productivity to a degree where it costs a company $1,685 in losses per employee. If multiple employees are missing work because of mental health issues, this can result in a significant productivity problem.
Many employers are offering different programs to their employees, but this may not be enough. Approximately 53% of employers in the U.S. offer some sort of employee assistance program.
Employee assistance programs often offer things like free therapy sessions with a qualified counselor. However, these sessions are usually brief. You may only get a few of them covered before it would become your own financial responsibility to continue. Some people aren’t comfortable using these resources, and employers don’t always do a good job communicating that these services are available. Many employees don’t even know that they can access the program provided. It is the responsibility of an employer to make everyone in a company aware that these services are available, not to mention that they should use them freely whenever needed.
The Benefits of Mental Health Coverage in the Workplace
Mental health coverage has become a common conversation in many companies across the U.S. since 2020. Because mental health has become something that people are paying more attention to, employees expect their employer to offer resources. This could be counseling, days off for mental health care, preventive programs and more.
When an employer offers treatment resources to their staff, they experience a much higher degree of employee satisfaction across the board. Being able to retain talent during a time when many people are choosing to leave their job is a major challenge. A high turnover rate is a major expense for a company, and a worker shortage can be devastating for a business regardless of its size. Employers can attract and retain talent by offering excellent benefits that include mental health resources.
Investing in the Mental Health of Your Team
As an employer or professional in a management role, you’ll find success if you’re investing time and resources into the team that you’re working with. Approximately three out of four large employers and two out of four small-to-medium employers offer at least one type of mental health service to their staff.
The pandemic has shown an immense need for support within a company and community. Employers are working together to provide access to qualified professionals and services within the area so that their staff can conveniently get the help they need. About 40% of companies that have 50 or more employees have recently made significant changes to their mental health care plans that they offer.
When someone is suffering, jumping through multiple hoops to get the care that they need can be very discouraging. A lot of people end up putting off their care when they have to seek referrals, make multiple phone calls to try to get coverage, or search for reputable professionals who can help. It’s much more beneficial to have all of that worked out ahead of time so that people can simply pick up the phone and know exactly who to call when they need help.
An Increase in Drug and Alcohol Use During the Pandemic
When the pandemic first began, many companies across the United States decided to shut their doors temporarily. Some Americans were left without work, and some had their hours reduced while others were forced to work from their homes. To complicate matters even more, many people had to go through multiple quarantines, social distance from their peers and loved ones and reduce their social interactions.
Not only has the pandemic resulted in many illnesses, deaths and long-term health issues, but it has also caused an increase in drug and alcohol abuse. Many people have turned to substances such as alcohol, opioids, marijuana, benzodiazepines and cocaine in order to deal with the stress, anxiety, depression, boredom and isolation that they have had to endure. While some companies have welcomed their employees back to the office, many people were left with a substance abuse problem that had gotten out of control. We still have a lot of people who are working from home, many of whom will never return as a result of changes in company structuring.
As people have turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with the stress of the pandemic, their habits have worsened. Some of these people have underlying mental health issues that led to their addiction. Other people were trying to self-medicate after not being able to find proper help for what they were going through. These people need to have available resources that can help them overcome their addiction and mental health challenges.
When people have underlying mental health concerns, they are more likely to slip back into old unhealthy ways of living. Addiction recovery and support services can include things like recovery meetings and support groups, detox support, rehab, therapy and much more. Now more than ever, people should have this care provided to them thanks to the accessibility of online telehealth services.
COVID-19 and the Opioid Epidemic
Opioid use became a problem in the 1990s as this kind of drug was being offered frequently as an option for pain management. Because of the highly addictive nature of these substances, many people became addicted even though they were originally prescribed these medications by a doctor.
Since then, the U.S. has been dealing with an opioid epidemic that has only gotten worse since the pandemic began. Some progress was being made prior to 2020, but COVID-19 negated this progress as support groups were shuttered and people lost their support systems. Opioids have become very easy to obtain, and people are using them whether they were prescribed an opioid or not by a trusted doctor. A need for reputable recovery assistance is in high demand.
What Can a Company Offer?
Employee assistance programs have become incredibly popular. These programs are typically free for employees to use, and they provide a variety of services including teletherapy appointments, the use of mental health apps, addiction services, rehabilitation care and more. This care should always be provided by experienced mental health professionals and clinicians, like those at Defining Wellness Centers, who know how to provide clients with effective solutions and recommendations. There are many different programs that you can look into, each providing a set of services that may be useful to staff.
As we navigate through this pandemic even further, it’s likely that we will continue to see challenges with people’s mental health in the workplace. This is largely due to the uncertainty that we’re experiencing along with all of the major transitions that many people have had to face. This is a large-scale event that is causing a great deal of trauma for people worldwide. Long-term mental health issues are indeed going to be an issue moving forward.
Whether a person is struggling because of a change in occupation, a job loss or a major shift in their daily routine, optimal mental health care is a must. These services should be provided to a workplace community, and people should be encouraged to use what’s available to them long before their mental health becomes a serious problem that leads to things like substance abuse.