The Toll Of The Mental Health Crisis On Businesses

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Gyre Renwick, COO at Modern Health.

I think the ripple effect of mental health issues on the workplace is undeniable, with 20% of U.S. workers having daily thoughts about quitting their jobs and 88% feeling burned out at work. That takes a toll on employees’ physical and mental well-being.

The startling fact is that 12 billion working days are lost annually to anxiety and depression, and these losses cost the world economy $1 trillion annually, mostly in lost productivity. This is not to mention the record-high healthcare costs. Untreated mental health issues translate to a threefold increase in medical spending, with costs spiraling further when care is neglected.

In simple terms, that means that employees who are suffering from mental health issues are costing businesses more. Fuelling this issue is the fact that this year marks the steepest rise in health insurance costs in a decade, with employer healthcare expenses poised to leap from 5.4% to 8.5% in 2024.

So, what concrete steps can leaders take to address the surge in employee mental health concerns?

Prioritize Mental Health Education And Awareness

The large majority of employees feel its your job as a leader to foster an environment where mental health concerns can be discussed. Yet, seven in 10 leaders at the manager level are not trained in facilitating mental health discussions. One of the most effective ways for leaders to address employee mental health concerns is by prioritizing mental health education and awareness within their organizations. Just a couple of months ago, we saw Goldman Sachs unveil mandatory virtual mental health training for all employees and managers with the title of vice president or higher.

Managers should receive training on how to spot the signs of mental health concerns, understand the right questions to ask employees and know where to guide an individual for support. Managers can also be trained in active listening, empathy and non-judgmental communication techniques through workshops, webinars and training sessions. It only takes three hours of training to see improvement. While it’s vitally important to communicate clear boundaries—managers aren’t the new workplace therapists—they should feel empowered and well-equipped to support employees and point them to the right resources.

When thinking about designing and implementing mental health training programs for managers, start by looking at the data. What current support are your managers and employees utilizing and engaging with? Gather feedback so you can spot the gaps early on. This will ensure that when you do invest, it will be in programs that your employees and managers will actually use.

Start From The Top

Perhaps the most crucial tip for leaders is to tackle the stigma associated with mental health where you can. I strongly believe in leading with vulnerability—that when leaders share their own struggles and beliefs around mental health, the impact on the rest of the workforce is huge. Companies can implement the best mental health policies and programs, but if employees don’t feel encouraged to utilize these, then it is a wasted effort.

I make a conscious effort to talk openly about how I take care of my own mental health and how that allows me to show up to work and at home. I’m a planner—something my team is very aware of. I factor time into my day to exercise for my next Ironman competition. For me, working out reduces any anxiety or stress I’m feeling and allows me to come to work feeling energized and ready to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead.

I find that by sharing my own personal experiences with mental health, I create a more open environment allowing my colleagues and team to open up about their own experiences, voice any concerns and prioritize their self-care. Other leaders in our team foster a transparent culture by openly talking about the value they find in therapists or coaches, setting a tone that prioritizing your mental health is a strength, not a weakness.

Think Of The Business

Oftentimes, I see leaders focus on the enormous benefits of mental health support for employees and overlook the tangible benefits to the business.

Addressing workplace mental health can enhance productivity as healthy employees are more focused, energized and able to perform at their best. Reduced absenteeism is another significant impact, for employees are less likely to miss work due to illness or health-related issues, ensuring consistent workflow and minimizing disruptions.

The turnover rate for employees with poor mental health is significantly higher compared to those with mental health issues, costing businesses up to three times the employee’s salary to replace them. Studies show that for an organization with 1,000 workers, thriving employees not suffering from health issues like depression or anxiety cost their employers $1.8 million less every year. By promoting preventative mental health care measures, companies can potentially lower healthcare costs associated with treating illnesses and injuries.

Furthermore, healthier employees are less prone to long-term health complications, reducing the burden on health insurance plans and mitigating risks related to absenteeism and disability claims. In fact, for every dollar invested in mental health treatment, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.

There is no avoiding it; we are facing a mental health epidemic that is only getting worse. The call for decisive leadership action in addressing workplace mental health isn’t just a nicety—it’s a bottom-line necessity. Studies have highlighted the very measurable and real impact of the mental health crisis on our businesses.

Leaders are in a unique and powerful position where they can lead the charge toward a more resilient, healthy and profitable future.


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