Nevertheless, this is an issue that business organisations should never ignore and they should see it as an investment that will benefit the company in terms of mentally fit employees, which will in turn result in increased productivity.
Why is mental well-being relevant in the workplace?
1. Mental health issues are often long-term
A 2016 study produced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that, every year, nearly 1 in 5 adults in the US suffer from some form of mental illness. Indeed, depression and anxiety affect both blue- and white-collar workers alike.
According to NIOSH Director Casey Chosewood, mental health problems often start early and have a persistent and long-term effect. Usually, a worker’s chronic physical conditions begin to appear in their 40s and 50s. However, mental health concerns can emerge in their early 20s and 30s and may last throughout their entire employment with the company.
2. Mental well-being/stress affects productivity and profitability
There is sufficient evidence to suggest that a worker’s mental well-being can affect their work efficiency and productivity.
A 2003 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that depression alone resulted in an annual loss in productivity of more than $30 billion.
Many companies believe that mental illness is now becoming one of the leading causes of disability among their employees.
Mental illness can also exacerbate a prevailing condition. For example, if an employee suffering from anxiety or depression is hurt at work, under these circumstances it is unlikely that they will be able to return to work immediately. In addition, the cost of their recovery will inevitably rise.
Stress in the workplace is normal, but some experts suggest that it can contribute to employees’ depression and anxiety. When this type of scenario arises, productivity will go down which will in turn negatively affect the company’s bottom line. Moreover, it could also increase employee turnover (the number of workers who leave and are then replaced by new personnel).
Furthermore, researchers from both Stanford University and Harvard Business School have reported that stress in the workplace does tend to increase health risks, including employees’ mental well-being.
3. It can affect workers’ safety
It is well known that your brain tells your body what to do, which is why people need to be mindful of their actions. If a worker has mental health issues, this can impair their decision-making and ability to recognise potential problems in the workplace.
There have been instances when workplace accidents have occurred due to an employee becoming distracted. If stress is the reason for their distraction, then a health, safety and environment (HSE) officer should act to help the employee eliminate such stress. By keeping their mind focused, the safety of the company’s work environment will be significantly improved.
While the majority of companies employ an HSE officer to oversee their employees’ mental health, there may be a need to consult an outside health professional in this regard. This process could help the company to accurately assess their employees’ mental health needs. It could also convince staff that it’s perfectly acceptable to openly discuss the stresses and pressures they face at work.
If an HSE officer believes that an employee has some sort of mental illness, he/she could then transfer the case to a professional. Experts emphasise that HSE officers should deal with mental health risks in the same way as they deal with physical problems. They could begin by:
- Learning about mental health in the workplace
- Raising employee awareness of mental health issues by conducting seminars and training
- Leading talks about mental health to encourage people to address their concerns
- Supporting a company culture that values people’s mental well-being
- Providing internal and external resources to employees (e.g., assistance programmes)
- Conducting dialogue with staff on how to reduce job-related stress that may contribute to mental health issues
Typically, management or the human resources department handle any mental health issues. Recently, health and safety officers have begun to get involved in this domain as they are in a unique position to offer assistance. It should be remembered that the nature of their work doesn’t allow them to tell people what to do; instead, they influence, teach and collaborate with other people in the organisation.
Undoubtedly, the priority of HSE officers is to eliminate any health and safety hazards from the workplace. However, they should also consider that mental health problems can have a significant impact on an organisation’s working environment.