Why Mental Health should be at the Forefront of Business, and How this can be Achieved
At the heart of any great business is a team of hardworking, reliable individuals – who help ensure that everything moves forwards smoothly and with ease. Networks of colleagues rely on each other wholly, so often all it takes is for one person to be off for the whole workforce to be out of sync. For this reason, ensuring that all employees are in good health is something which is vital for business – however more often than not mental health is mistakenly overlooked. This is a huge error for businesses, as the implications for a work force with poor mental health can be just as bad, if not worse, than a workforce with poor physical health: and here’s why.
According to a review by Goetzel et al (2002), it is suggested that employees suffering with depression within the workforce can lead to decreased productivity, increased absences, short-term disabilities and poorer employee performance across the board. These affects, according to Goetzel, could consequentially mean large financial costs for the employer; both as a consequence of reduced productivity within the business, or due to potential long-term health complications occurring as a result of untreated mental illness. Similarly, Lagerveld et al (2010) reviewed 30 studies of factors affecting work productivity and functioning (e.g. sick leave, productivity etc.) and found that for the most part mental health was a good predictor of productivity – where poor mental health equates to low levels of productivity. There was also moderate evidence to suggest that clinical improvement (as a result of therapy) improved productivity in individuals.
In terms of costs, a study by Wang (2006) suggests that employers providing mental health care to their employees could actually save their business money in the long-term, as well the obvious benefits to morale. This may be in part due to a reduction of sick days for mental health issues; Conti & Burton (1994) found that, in a large financial services company, sick days taken for depression amounted to 44 a year, in comparison with 42 for heart disease and 39 for back pain. In fact, the World Health Organisation (2003) claims that costs incurred by bosses for psychological treatments for employees is offset by a reduction in absenteeism alone. Further, studies have long suggested that stress and other long-term negative feelings can impact upon physical health, so it is likely that mental and physical health would go hand in hand in reducing sick days.
So, what can be done to help?
The World Health Organisation suggests that preventative strategies are the way forward in terms of improving mental health; whereby they suggest offering therapy in cases of bereavement, trauma or other negative life events, before a problem can arise. Further, offering private and confidential therapy sessions to employees who need it is likely to be effective in reducing the need for time off and improving productivity, especially if these sessions can be booked around their work lives. A huge barrier to seeking help for many is the lack of work flexibility, so it is important that businesses work around this and allow breaks or days off where required. After all, a happy workforce makes for a better workforce, and therefore a better business overall.
In some cases, it may be difficult to offer employees time away from the office for therapy or counselling – however thanks to modern technology it is now possible to book therapy sessions which can take place within the workplace. For example, the Dr Julian App www.dr-julian.com allows individuals to book online therapy sessions through their phone at any given time, and these sessions actually take place through secure video link (much like a facetime call), so productivity can be optimised. A service such as this may be ideal for ensuring that employees are able to receive the help that they need, perhaps during a therapy break, and get back to work as soon as possible afterwards.
In the competitive world that is big business, it is important to remember that staff are an asset – so ensuring their mental and physical health should be a priority, not an afterthought.
Dr Julian Nesbitt MBChB BSc MRCEM, CEO Dr Julian Medical Group Ltd