Mental health problems can manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from absenteeism and lower productivity to increased conflict and turnover in the company. Yet, despite the significant impact mental health conditions have on businesses, there is still a great deal of negativity around discussing mental health in the workplace.
Some may feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health problems with their employer or co-workers for fear of being judged or passed over for opportunities. This discomfort often leads to people suffering in silence which can exacerbate mental health conditions and lead to even more productivity losses.
In line with our “It’s OK to Talk About It” forum on Mental Health in the Workplace held on 13 October 2022, this article will discuss mental health in the workplace and what Human Resource (HR) professionals can do to address it.
Why Mental Health is a Costly Problem for Businesses
In order to better understand the true cost of mental health in the workplace, it’s important to first understand what mental health is. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It has an impact on how we think, feel, and act. Just as physical health can be affected by poor diet or a sedentary lifestyle, mental health can be affected by stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors.
Whether it’s meeting deadlines, juggling multiple projects, or managing difficult co-workers, these are just a few of the factors that can contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed. For some people, this stress can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety or depression and have a profound effect on their ability to function at work.
For example, they may have difficulty concentrating on tasks and dealing with customers or have trouble mustering the motivation to come into work each day. As a result, poor mental health can eventually lead to errors, increased absenteeism and higher turnover rates. All told, depression and anxiety disorders is estimated to cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
In fact, research found that almost 40% of working Singaporeans are experiencing significant mental health strain and are considered high risk in terms of their mental health. Chances are, then, that your workplace is not immune to the direct and indirect costs associated with mental health.
How to talk about mental health at work
These costs can add up quickly and have a significant impact on businesses—both financially and operationally. Fortunately, there are steps businesses can take to support the well-being of your employees:
1. Create an open and inclusive environment
Employees should feel like they can openly discuss their mental health without fear of judgement or discrimination. This starts with upper management setting the tone; if management is supportive of employees with mental illness, that will trickle down throughout the company. Employers should also organise staff events that address mental health through education and team building.
2. Promote wellness programs
Wellness programs are a great way to promote overall employee health, including mental health. These can include things like mindfulness training, stress management classes, yoga classes, or even regular walking groups. As part of employee benefits insurance, you may also consider including free or subsidised mental health screenings for depression in Singapore.
3. Encourage employees to take breaks
This could mean anything from providing extra vacation days or allowing working from home policies. Breaks are important for everyone but they’re especially important for those dealing with mental illness in order to avoid burnout.
4. Be proactive about addressing concerns
When employees are struggling, it’s important that the right resources are within reach. You can provide access to free or subsidised counselling through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for all employees. This will give employees the opportunity to speak to someone about their mental health in a confidential and safe setting. To promote early intervention, you may also make mental health self-assessment tools available to all staff. This way, employees can assess their own mental health and see if they are experiencing any symptoms of anxiety or depression.
It’s okay to talk about it
By pairing your employee benefits insurance policy with additional wellness program initatives, you can help reduce the cost of mental health in your organisation and create a happier, healthier workforce in the process. We cover more information in our whitepaper that goes into detail about the impact of workplace mental health in Singapore. You may get in touch with Expat Insurance if you would like a copy.