Hello and welcome! If you’re reading this, know that I’m doing a happy dance because my website says my very first blog post is showing it’s had at least one view—so thank you! I know your time is valuable so let’s get right down to it.
Why should my company care about this fluffy-sounding mental health stuff?
In my role as a trainer and consultant on workplace mental health, this is the sort of question I’m asked pretty regularly. Well, aside from the obvious benefits to employees who work in psychologically safe and healthy environments, investing in making your workplace a mentally healthy one will actually save the company money—win-win! Here are five ways psychological health and safety impacts your organization’s bottom line:
A healthy workplace culture is one of the biggest predictors of employee engagement. When employees feel valued, supported and have a strong sense of community and cohesion with their co-workers, they’re more productive. A toxic work environment means more resources dedicated to HR, union grievances and long-term damage to corporate reputation.
Sick time and disability leave for mental health problems are climbing each year. Mental health-related disability claims account for about a third of all claims but more than 70% of total costs, meaning these leaves tend to be longer. Sometimes being off work is exactly what an employee needs in order to get well… but not always. The sense of routine and accomplishment work gives many of us can play a huge role in improving and maintaining good mental health. Psychologically safe and healthy organizations tend to have lower rates of absenteeism because the workplace supports employees in getting well sooner if they hit a bump in the road, and staying well longer term.
Have you ever glanced at the clock in your office and been shocked to realize a half hour’s gone by when the task you were working on would normally have taken you just a few minutes to complete? Research indicates presenteeism—employees being physically present at work but functioning below their usual level of productivity due to mental unwellness—may carry an even higher price tag than absenteeism. Unaddressed mental health problems mean distractedness, lower motivation to excel and higher frequency of errors when completing tasks.
Most employees won’t stay in a mentally unhealthy work environment if they have other options. High turnover rates come with huge costs: advertising a job vacancy, scheduling and conducting interviews, hiring a candidate and training them… only to have them leave weeks later and start the process all over again. Organizations with a revolving door often end up spending a great deal of time, energy and money on recruitment and retention strategies too, which aren’t effective if a psychologically unhealthy work environment is at the root of the problem. When left unmanaged, turnover issues become a never-ending cycle.
5. Legal Exposure
Both employers and employees need to be aware of their legal rights and responsibilities. Failing to stay apprised of legal obligations related to employee mental health can result in lengthy, stressful and expensive legal battles. Employers have a Duty to Inquire, meaning turning a blind eye to signs that a mental health problem may be affecting their ability to work to their full potential is not just an ethical issue, but potentially a legal one. The Duty to make Reasonable Accommodations applies to mental health issues no differently than physical ones, but many would agree that accommodating, say, clinical depression can be more complex than accommodating carpel tunnel. Evolving legislation obliging employers to take preventative measures around bullying, harassment and discrimination means a proactive approach to psychological health and safety is more important now than ever.
If you're not convinced yet, let me share some startling numbers. Research tells us that between direct costs and lost productivity the impact of poor mental health on the Canadian labour force is upwards of $51 billion per year. Recently published research by Deloitte Canada found that for every $1.00 invested in workplace mental health the median yearly return is $1.62, increasing to $2.18 when programs have been in place for three years or more (read the publication HERE). Larger companies who continue the investment long-term see an even higher ROI, like Bell Canada who documented a $4.10 return in 2018 after seven consecutive years of implementing best practices related to employee mental health, using more than ninety Key Performance Indicators to measure the impact. If you’re looking for more hard data to help convince the “powers that be” in your organization to prioritize mental health in the workplace, I encourage you to check out the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada publication (find it HERE). Any way you slice it, investing in mental health in the workplace makes smart business sense.
What are some innovative ways your organization plans to prioritize psychological health and safety in 2020? Let us know in the Comments section!
Elizabeth Eldridge is a Psychological Health & Safety Consultant based in southern New Brunswick, Canada. In addition to frequent keynote speaking and corporate training on mental health she is the owner/operator of Arpeggio Health Services, Atlantic Canada’s largest provider of public mental health trainings. Learn more at elizabetheldridge.com, summitcorporatewellness.com and arpeggiohealthservices.com.