The Silent Crisis: Rising Mental Health Problems at Work
An undercurrent of mental health issues is disrupting workplaces across the United States, leading to concerns about productivity, engagement, and retention. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently released a report revealing a startling trend: an increasing number of U.S. employees are battling mental health issues, often directly resulting from their work environment.
According to the SHRM study, one in three U.S. employees admits that their job has negatively impacted their mental health in the past six months. This invisible crisis has tangible consequences and employers should consider taking action before it’s too late.
Employees Perceive a Lot of Room for Improvement in Current Employer Approach
In years past, employers may not have been expected to address mental health in the workplace directly. The tides, however, are rapidly changing.
According to the same SHRM research, almost half of U.S. employees now expect a higher level of mental health support from their organizations than in previous years.
This evolution presents employers with an excellent opportunity to create a healthier, more supportive work environment that benefits both employees and the bottom line.
The Current Response: A Need for Improvement
Many organizations have already taken significant steps to support the mental health of their employees, using Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), mental health apps, and in other ways.
Yet, despite these well-meaning efforts, the SHRM study found that 59% of U.S. employees feel their organizations still offer too few mental health resources.
While employers are making greater efforts to support mental health, these figures show there’s still much ground to cover. Employers should consider re-evaluating their mental health support strategies, assessing what’s working and, crucially, what isn’t.
A Proactive Approach: Steps Toward a Healthier Workplace
What strategies might help employers better meet their employees’ mental health needs? To answer this question, start by listening to the workforce. SHRM’s study shows that employees are asking for paid mental health days, mental health coverage in healthcare plans, and free or subsidized virtual mental health services.
Additionally, employers should consider options such as mindfulness classes, mental health support groups, and mandatory mental health training for managers and employees. Experts suggest that these efforts, paired with providing mental health accommodations like flexible scheduling and work breaks, can create a more supportive workplace environment.
But it’s not enough to introduce these measures and hope for the best. Employers should consider actively promoting the availability of these resources, ensuring every employee is aware of what’s available to them.
The Benefits of Investing in Mental Health
Addressing mental health is not just an altruistic effort. It’s a strategic one. If left unaddressed, mental health issues can lead to increased turnover and decreased productivity.
SHRM’s study found that “employees who work for organizations that are not successful at creating a workplace that supports mental health are less likely to describe their mental health as good or excellent (46 percent), compared to those who work for organizations that are successful at creating a workplace that supports mental health (74 percent).”
Thus, an investment in mental health support can be viewed as an investment in workforce stability and productivity. Plus, employees who feel their mental health is being prioritized are less likely to quit.