May is Mental Health Awareness Month – Why Your Company Should Care

This article was published on May 4, 2018 on Corporate Fitness & Health’s blog. Photo Credit Corporate Fitness & Health.

Given that most of us spend a good amount of our time at work, it should come as no surprise that our work environment plays a significant role in our mental health and overall well-being. Despite the role that office culture plays in employee health, companies rarely, if ever, mention mental health.

As mental health issues become more prevalent in the workplace, employers should consider taking ownership, and learn how to best combat the stressors that are particular to their workforce.

2016 Work and Well-Being survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that less than half of the 1,501 workers surveyed felt their organization supported employee well-being, and one in three reported being chronically stressed on the job.

Mental Health Problems Cost Employers

Less than one-third of Americans are happy with their work. Half of the workforce is “checked-out.”  18% are unhappy with their current position with some even sabotaging the success of their workplace. An unhappy or unhealthy work environment is bad for a business’ bottom line and bad for employees.

Employees with untreated mental illnesses cost employers billions of dollars each year. An estimated 217 million days of work are lost annually due to productivity decline related to mental illness and substance abuse, according to the Center for Prevention and Health Services.

Workplace Stress

Stress is on the rise. More than half (54%) of employees are reporting high stress levels, up five points from last year. Further, 37% say their stress levels are higher than the previous year, according to the 2017 National Business Group on Health/Aon Hewitt Consumer Health Mindset Survey.

The good news? There are a number of ways employers can help combat stress, such as creating an emotional fitness strategy to reduce stigma and address stressful, top-of-mind issues.

If we recognized that all of us deal with our mental health every day – from personal health or family stressors, to work demands, to upsetting world events – we would understand the value in protecting it and promoting our personal resilience to deal with whatever life presents to us.

Who is your population? Evaluate your work environment to address issues that negatively impact employees’ emotional health and train leaders and managers to spot the subtle warning signs of a suffering employee.

Those in unhealthy work environments tend to gain more weight, have more healthcare appointments, and have higher rates of absenteeism. Stress from work can also impact their family life, mental health and even increase risks for chronic illnesses and heart attacks.

Mental Health Awareness Month Is an Opportunity

People aren’t considered either mentally healthy or mentally ill. Mental health is a continuum, and an organization’s culture can greatly impact where an employee falls on that continuum.

Nearly 1 in 5 people experienced a diagnosable mental health problem in the last year, and many other people are at risk, according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The vast majority of people struggling with issues like depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses suffer in silence.

Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportune time for employers to open up the conversation about mental health issues in the workplace. Implementing stress awareness, or a corporate wellness program are just a few ways companies can promote positive mental well-being in their workplace.

The Diversified Group family of companies includes Corporate Fitness & Health. With over 30 years of experience, CF&H can help your organization implement a wellness program that will keep your employees happy, healthy and engaged.

Student Loans and Standing Desks

healthFinancial wellness, standing desks and other wellness strategies are high on the list of benefits trending upward in 2018. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a growing number of organizations are offering programs to help employees improve their financial well-being. Some companies are providing debt counseling and help with repayment of student loans. Standing desks are becoming very popular, with a growing number of companies offering them to employees as a new wellness benefit.

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Should You Be More Focused on Behavorial Health Benefits?

healthWith estimates showing that one in five Americans suffer from a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, it’s no wonder that more employers are expanding their traditional wellness programs to include an increased emphasis on behavioral health. This trend may seem surprising since traditional Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) have existed for decades, however research conducted by the National Behavior Consortium shows that a very small percentage of employees have taken advantage of EAPs in recent years.

Walk-In Therapy

Since healthy and happy employees typically spend less on healthcare services and are more productive in the workplace, it makes sense that larger employers are taking a far more holistic approach to employee well-being. Some are utilizing telephonic EAPs while others are bringing behavioral health resources on-site, so that a therapist can be accessed on a “walk-in” basis. Experts say that the advantages can go well beyond convenience, contributing to a more caring culture.

Some also say that services can be tweaked to resemble more of a “life coaching” resource, designed to help members enjoy more rewarding professional and personal lives. Wellness programs have always demonstrated the employer’s concern for the health and well-being of their workers. Greater attention to behavioral health can take that concern to an even higher level.

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Have You Defined Your Health Strategy?

health-assessmentWhen it comes to improving the health and well-being of your employees, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to be super creative or search for that magic bullet that automatically boosts engagement and changes behavior. If only it were that easy!

Like any other important business initiative, worksite wellness and health management must begin with a plan, a budget and a strategy. Your plan needs to be based on realistic goals and objectives and executed strategically over the long-term. Most importantly, your plan must be designed to benefit everyone and taken to heart at every level of the organization, top to bottom. If health management is not lived by leadership, others will never take it seriously.

Numbers Seldom Lie
Recent surveys by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health show that fewer than 1 in 5 companies have defined a health strategy for their organizations. Surveys also show that in 2014, companies “working” their plan reported per employee healthcare expenses nearly $2,000 lower than companies doing little in the area of health management.

Perhaps the most meaningful numbers in your plan are those that rise to the surface through biometric screenings. Identifying each individual’s health risks is the ingredient that truly can change behavior, help fight chronic disease and improve quality of life. Relevant, personalized health data can make the difference between talk and action, and ultimately, between estrangement and engagement.

Never Stop Communicating
Virtually every employer group will consist of those who are already actively engaged in their health, a similar number with little or no interest and the majority who may not be actively engaged but can be influenced over time. The key to a successful health strategy is consistent, honest communication – telling employees what your program includes, why the program is being made available, how they can benefit and when they need to get involved. Communication is critical for those who come on board, especially when incentives are included. Keeping things simple and fun will always generate better results and help keep the focus on people’s well-being rather than the company’s bottom line.

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