Unlocking Productivity: Harnessing the Power of Mental Wellness in the Workplace

August 9, 2023

Lindsay Fuhrman

Man sitting in fieldThe pandemic challenged us in many ways. Everyone dealt with it differently; many struggled with depression and other health challenges. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%, according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO). The good news is that we are finally talking about mental health, and the stigma surrounding it is becoming a thing of the past. Those who may have previously felt ashamed or did not understand what they were dealing with now have more information, tools, and resources available. 

There is an ever-growing need for mental health programs at work, and they are rapidly increasing. More organizations are incorporating mental health solutions into their employee benefits and health plans to meet the growing demand. Supporting mental health at work is also a wise business decision. It can save costs by reducing absenteeism, presenteeism, disability claims, and lost productivity. Alternatively, the costs to employers when mental health goes untreated are:

  • Reduced productivity: You are often less efficient when struggling with a mental health issue. Depression alone is estimated to account for $44 billion in losses to workplace productivity.
  • Unsafe work conditions: Workplace-related injuries increase with untreated mental and substance abuse disorders.
  • Absenteeism/Presenteeism: Mental health issues can cause missed work, physical health issues, and the ability to work efficiently.

Ensuring your employees have access to affordable and convenient care is in the best interest of your business. Managing and supporting mental health at work can save employers $2,000 annually per employee on costs associated with health and productivity. 

Why Offer Mental Health Programs: 

  • 52% of employees are experiencing burnout.
  • Mental health needs are at an all-time high. In 2022, almost half (46%) of workers suffered from mental health issues, up from 39% in 2019.
  • Untreated mental health issues are a silent threat to employers, causing physical symptoms and costs associated with absenteeism and presenteeism at work.

woman consoling another woman

Destigmatizing Conversations And Manager Training For A Resilient Workplace

  • Normalizing topics around mental health and identifying and assessing burnout risk makes it easier for employees to get the organizational support they need before reaching a crisis point.
  • Encouraging managers and employees to discuss emotional wellbeing removes stigmas around mental health conversations at work.
  • Add manager training in the form of mental health first aid. Since managers are often the ones who most interact with employees, they need to identify triggers of mental health episodes and the need to reach out for help.
  • Create compassionate, destigmatizing communication strategies around the benefits of caring for your mental health.

Mental Health Solutions:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) help employees handle personal challenges that can affect their work. They offer resources for childcare, eldercare, legal advice, and life-related stressors.
  • Digital tools and apps are popular for quick relaxation time anywhere, anytime.
  • Dedicated mental health benefits, in the form of counseling and therapy sessions, can be built into your health plan as behavioral health coverage at no cost to employees.

Outside of mental health programs, there are other ways in which you can create a mentally healthy work environment:

Create A Relaxation Space

Dedicated, quiet spaces allow employees to unwind, relax, and decompress. It’s up to leaders and managers to establish a work culture that makes it acceptable to take breaks, use these spaces, and feel good about taking appropriate ‘me time’ during the day.

man meditating

New Solutions That Fundamentally Rethink Mental Health

There are several app-based interventions that reduce or even eliminate the reliance on care providers by incorporating self-guided programs and lessons that have been clinically shown to deliver quality outcomes. This also reduces the strain on therapists, so they can treat those most in need.

  • They employ artificial intelligence and/or machine learning to free providers from administrative burdens and help route patients to appropriate care.
  • They move beyond traditional talk therapy. The most effective interventions from this latest wave of solutions are built for modern work styles and schedules. They also take a more holistic approach to mental health, with a focus on the mind-body connection via nutrition, exercise, sleep, and social interactions.  

There are over 160 million people in the U.S. workforce today. Many spend a considerable portion of their day at work, presenting an excellent opportunity to make the workplace a foundation of mental health and wellbeing. A positive, supportive workplace can boost employee and company morale and your bottom line.

About the Author

 Lindsay Fuhrman

Director of Population Health Management, Employee Benefits

  • For more than 15 years, Lindsay has been executing innovative approaches and best practices to transform well-being and care programs for clients and uses data analytics to inform strategies in the areas of vendor programming, incentive design, and care improvement.
  • Prior to joining World, Lindsay spearheaded health management initiatives at Optum, Delta Airlines, and FirstCare Health Plans.