The True Cost of Mental Health for Your Organisation

Poor mental health affects all levels of a business and costs the economy billions. Execs are finally taking notice, and working to truly empower their organisations.

Sheena Pirbhai, CEO & founder of SPHERE, discusses how mental health impacts workplace productivity and how business leaders can address the problem.

Mental health in the workplace is a growing problem, with research indicating the number of instances from poor mental health at work will soon surpass other illnesses. Adding to this, healthcare costs are going up, productivity is going down and employees are burning out. Deloitte’s recent research on investing in mental health highlights the rising costs of mental health-related illness, with absenteeism and staff turnover contributing to the overall costs. Staff turnover costs the UK economy around £9 billion per year, with poor mental health costing UK employers up to £45 billion each year – and that was prior to the pandemic. Presenteeism, where employees work when they are not at their most productive, and absenteeism cost up to £29 billion and around £7 billion respectively every year.

The C-suite is now paying attention to mental health in the workplace more than ever, not only to ensure their business can remain competitive in a turbulent landscape, but they can also safeguard their talent’s health and well-being. Mental health challenges at work need to be addressed effectively in order to protect the most valuable asset – people. In order to achieve this, as leaders we need to take a holistic approach towards mental health; take a step back and evaluate why current solutions aren’t working, why the conversations are still difficult, and how we can finally move into the workplace of the future.

Providing good support for employees can significantly reduce days lost due to stress, anxiety, and depression, that are having a significant impact on productivity. We need to ask ourselves: do my employees feel included and supported? What steps can I take to make them feel this way?

Mental health challenges at work need to be addressed effectively in order to protect the most valuable asset – people.

Ongoing assessment and treatment are key 

Mental ill health is a uniquely personal experience, which means ‘one size fits all’ solutions have limited effectiveness. There are a number of factors that can determine a person’s mental health at work – pressure, lack of trust or support, negative work relationships, workloads and the COVID effect, to name a few. Anxiety around reintegration into the workplace following working from home, or safety in the workplace is a concern. Remote working has created an ‘always on’ culture which can lead to burnout, and it has made it harder for employers, HR departments or even colleagues to notice the markers of poor mental health.

Assessment is key towards effectively treating mental health issues at scale. It can help you understand your employees, and the overall status of mental health in your organisation. A confidential assessment mechanism, driven by anonymous data insights and analysis can take stock, monitor and analyse employees’ performance and wellbeing. Following assessment, employers can then invest in cost-effective and efficient solutions that can cater to a physical or remote workforce in a targeted way. The key is empowering employees to take the lead on their own mental health, while providing the support and resources for them to do so.

Up until now group chats, meditation and mindfulness have historically been used to handle and suppress symptoms, but now employers need to deploy individualised, targeted solutions that can deliver measurable results, to maintain good mental health across their organisation. Solutions that offer treatment remotely and confidentially, whilst still monitoring overall employee health and well-being.

The key is empowering employees to take the lead on their own mental health, while providing the support and resources for them to do so.

Executing a robust mental health strategy

As 2020 is reaching an end, the time is ripe for employers to go beyond generic mental health policies and take tangible measures to assess, monitor and treat mental health issues. While a robust employee mental health strategy is a good first step, it needs to be consistently implemented in order to be impactful. Businesses need to focus on creating a culture of inclusivity and acceptability, built on trust, to help employees tackle current isolation and uncertainty.

While there is still work to be done to break down stigmas, build awareness and trust around mental health, we can’t let people in our organisation continue to suffer in silence. Senior management should send the message that they take mental health seriously, leading by example and sharing available plans and resources. HR managers need to maintain regular communication to identify issues early to adequately support staff. Early intervention can prevent symptoms developing into more serious mental and physical health problems – driving additional cost-savings and protecting your people’s wellbeing. According to Deloitte, the return on investment for businesses committing to help all employees achieve good mental health is an average of £5 for every £1 spent.

Employers need to ensure provision of tailored in-house mental health support to provide personalised treatment for all employees. Autonomous digital therapeutics can offer this type of individualised, targeted treatment for people struggling with stress, anxiety and PTSD. These programmes are designed to allow users to travel in virtual space while collecting information and are used to develop and adjust later interactions and address personal relationships and behaviour.

Point of no return

In recent months, working habits have changed, impacting mental health at work. Stress and anxiety have, and will continue to have, a direct impact on productivity, profitability and employee health. Many businesses were already struggling to support their staff’s mental health and remote working has exacerbated these challenges. We have now reached a point of no return, where employers can no longer afford to ignore the true cost of poor mental health for their organisation. 

To tackle these challenges, employers have to champion good mental health as a priority by taking action. They need to foster a supportive and accepting work culture and environment without judgement and offer digital options to support them anonymously and efficiently.

Technology has already played a significant role in reducing costs and increasing the likelihood of uptake by mitigating the associated stigma – due to the remote, convenient and confidential nature of options available. As mental health issues continue to deteriorate, organisations must look at leveraging the latest technology, developing and executing robust staff mental health programmes to offer meaningful assessment and support. Autonomous digital therapeutics can offer universally accessible and effective digital treatment, personalised to the needs of each individual. By taking a holistic approach towards mental health, employers can truly understand employees and address the drivers of presenteeism or absenteeism, leading to a happier and more productive workforce overall.

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