If your organization isn’t shining a spotlight on mental health and well-being right now, you may be sacrificing both productivity and profitability. It’s that simple.
The CDC revealed that depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost to employers of $17 to $44 billion. Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year.
But here’s the real kicker: Those are pre-pandemic numbers. That was before many of us lost the ability to interact with coworkers face-to-face, drop our kids off at school, escape to faraway lands…the list goes on.
PwC’s recent Pulse Survey reveals that more than half of CHROs (51%) say employee anxiety and burnout is a top challenge for their business amid this pandemic. They’re onto something.
In the pandemic’s early months, we used “surge capacity” to operate, meaning we drew on a collection of adaptive systems for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations. A psychologist and professor of child development at a leading university explains that this can help us get through a short period. Not a disaster that may last indefinitely.
On this World Mental Health Day, business leaders should ask themselves what they can do to be there for their people at this time.
Talk about it
There is still a stigma around mental health. Why? As I mentioned earlier, it affects so many of us.
Let’s help make the workplace a safe space to discuss these challenges, and work together to make everyone feel more comfortable and supported on the job. A key component of resilience is optimism, and teams should incorporate that into daily routines.
Much like you’d train a physical muscle, we should give ourselves exercises to train the brain in what we’d like to be focused on. Rituals around gratitude and seeing the glass “half full” can do wonders for employee morale.
Setting boundaries is also important. Encourage employees to be open and honest about the hours that work well for them, and work with them to create a flexible arrangement. They will begin to feel less guilty about making lunch for their kids or de-stressing with a mid-day meditation or fitness class, and their performance will likely improve. We have updated our “Habit Bank” of suggestions on ways to stay energized both at home and at work, and now are sharing it publicly.
If your organization does not have explicit mental health resources available, your voice matters to help change that. A recent survey of 256 companies by a nonprofit employer group found that just 53% of employers are providing special emotional and mental health programs for their workforce in the wake of the pandemic.
Subscriptions to meditation apps, discounts on counseling, and mental health podcasts are just a few examples of valuable perks you might consider offering.
We also recently launched a website detailing supportive material to Be Well, Work Well. The site includes free, short video simulations focused on mental health, as well as companion guides designed to help viewers better understand and navigate through mental health-related workplace conversations and scenarios.
Benefits like these don’t just help employees cope with mental health issues — they send a clear message that you truly care about your employees and that ultimately, it’s completely okay to not be okay. This, in turn, helps them feel more comfortable, energized and clear-headed at work.
Every employee is going to have a different situation that brings upon unique challenges. Listen to what your employees need, and meet them where they are.
A single mother who has to homeschool her child while working a full-time job is going to need different support than another employee who may be feeling isolated, living and working alone in a 400-square-foot studio apartment.
Consider offering different options that different employees in unique situations will find useful. Transparency and ongoing dialogue is key, and business leaders should make sure every voice is heard. It’s the right thing to do right now — for your people, and for your bottom line.
About the author
DeAnne Aussem serves as Leadership Development & Well Being Leader for
@PwC US and MX . As a Managing Director, leadership development expert
and credentialed executive coach, DeAnne draws upon more than 24 years of
professional services experience advising and supporting leaders, teams and
organizations across the U.S. and globally.