Why Mental Health Should be a Part of Your Business Playbook

There’s an old saying that goes: “a happy workforce is a productive workforce”. We all knew that already, right? Sure. But how often have you really thought about the emotional wellbeing of your employees and colleagues? Better yet, how often have changed something within your business to help boost or improve your staff’s wellbeing? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t – but mental health is far more than just a buzzword phrase infiltrating our lives – it’s a serious issue that can have major ramifications for any business, both positive and negative.

Mental Health Impacts Business

According to Mental Health America 18.57% of Americans (that’s 45 million people) are suffering with some kind of mental illness. Meanwhile the CDC reports that 71% of American adults (230 million people) reported at least one symptom of stress at work, such as a headache or feeling anxious. That is a heck of a lot of people this issue affects, and the truth is it’s probably more than that. Chances are either you or one of your colleagues has struggled with a mental health issue at some point. If I’d said that a few years ago, it might have been met with some fear and even revulsion. But stigmas surrounding mental health are being eroded, which means there’s no excuse not to take a more proactive approach and reap the eventual benefits for your business. 

Ben Skirth is Co-Founder of Lumien, an online service that helps companies do just that by allowing them to measure areas and activities that impact mental health at work, and cooperate with staff to improve on those areas to boost mental wellbeing. He said: “Over the last few years there has been a lot more openness around mental health – a growing media focus means it’s hard to go a day without hearing a story relating to mental health. Rewind even five years and how often did you hear about mental health? Modern society moves so fast that there are more pressures placed on us than ever before, but between those ever-growing pressures and a better understanding of mental health, we are beginning to recognise what it is and how it impacts us.”

The need for Ben’s company came about after some shocking statistics in the U.K., which revealed that mental health issues cost workplaces an estimated $53 million a year, equating to about 38 days of lost productivity per employee. Ben said: “Many companies have seen senior staff taking long periods of time off to recover from a period of mental ill health. When this happens the productivity and morale of whole teams and departments can be massively impacted. This will bring unexpected costs to the business and can have a knock-on effect causing longer lasting damage. Conversely, staff with higher levels of wellbeing will be more productive and more likely to stay with and promote your business. It’s no longer okay for an employer to feel that just paying their staff is enough. Younger generations are looking for work that fits with their values and goals – and to succeed as a business, you have to nurture and attract talent.”

Using services like Lumien is just one way to tackle the issue, though. The first, and perhaps most important, thing you can do yourself is to promote awareness and normalise talking about and dealing with mental health issues within your workplace. By changing how you view your own business this can easily be achieved, according to Ben: “A business isn’t just a conveyor belt of products and tasks, it’s a living environment and when it’s nurtured it will blossom. Businesses which look after their employees’ mental health see a more productive, dedicated workforce. Less days are lost to presenteeism and absenteeism, staff turnover is lower, and it becomes easier to hire exceptional talent.”

Should You Adopt a Formal Policy?

Whether you adopt a formal mental health policy with official channels for those who feel like they’re suffering to go through, or you simply communicate to your staff that ‘it’s okay not be okay’ and show you are approachable, both will help make you an employer people enjoy working for on a far deeper level. Those companies who choose to ignore mental health as part of their business plans could be incurring additional costs, losing good staff and restricting their overall success. You owe it to yourself, your company and your staff to consider a mental health policy in your business plan.

Four tips to help improve the mental health of your employees

1. Communicate

Make sure your employees know that support is available to them. Be honest and do not discriminate or stigmatise those with mental ill health. Make sure there is a safe environment and system for staff to talk about these issues.

2. Empower

It is vital that managers and employees support each other. Ensure that managers have the right training and resources available to them to support their teams. Managers should champion healthy behaviours in the workplace.

3. Release pressure 

So many businesses are filled with artificially created deadlines, which heap unnecessary pressure on staff. While deadlines are important, you need to let your employees have downtime. Don’t make them feel like they can’t take time off or that they can’t switch off from work when they leave at the end of the day. 

4. Remember what industry you’re in

Fishing is a proven stress buster, so make time for your staff to do their own fishing in a no-pressure environment or organise regular fishing hangouts with staff and their friends and families.

Further useful resources and ideas are available via the CDC, Mental Health America, and the U.K.’s Mental Health Foundation.