We’ve all heard it before:
“Employees should just count themselves lucky to have a job”
“Personal problems don’t belong in the workplace.”
“Your personal life shouldn’t get in the way of your responsibilities”
It may be difficult to believe that many individuals still hold these beliefs, but the reality is that a great deal of stigma surrounding mental health and the workplace remains in many organizations. As awareness for mental health grows, organizations need to adjust how they react to mental health in the workplace or they risk a decrease in engagement, productivity, and eventually revenue.
Mental health is an issue that many Canadians will face at one point in their life. Mental health was a prominent issue prior to COVID-19 and has only been exacerbated by the current global situation. As the pandemic has put a strain on the psychological health of Canadians, awareness for mental health has become more important than ever before. Recently, Optimum Talent hosted a series of webinars on this topic as we believe that organizations and their leaders must be equipped with the tools to lead their teams through personal crises. A common question that we received was: “What arguments can be presented to decision-makers to convince them of the need to act on employee well-being?
Here are a few ways you can approach this:
Address it in familiar terms
The business world works in numbers. As such, monetizing the problem can be an effective approach for some.
Highlight the Statistics
To put it simply; when employees suffer, corporations lose money. Mental illness causes more than $50 billion in annual losses in Canada alone, with the cost of lost productivity estimated at $6 billion.[i] In fact, it’s estimated that by 2041, the cost of mental illness in Canada will reach 2.5 Trillion![ii] In addition to the dollar values, nearly 500,000 Canadians are absent from work every week due to mental health problems. If you are still not convinced by these numbers, take a look at this infographic (insert link).
Demonstrate The Link Between Emotional Health + Job Performance
Instead of viewing programs that promote workplace emotional health as an expense, view them as an investment. Overall performance and psychosocial safety are linked, and an employee in distress will not be able to perform to the best of their ability. The possible consequences of inaction include:
- Increased Absenteeism: Absenteeism is costly for organizations. Especially those that must compensate for the absence with additional resources or overtime.
- Increased Presenteeism: Presenteeism is less well known than absenteeism, but it is just as damaging to an organization. Bill Howatt sums it up perfectly: “Individuals don’t care about their work because they are mentally unwilling to do so. Mental health is like oxygen: everyone needs it to be able to function. It’s vital.”
- Increased Turnover: Investing in employee training and integration is expensive. Therefore, losing talent due to a lack of support or a precarious climate costs time and money, and it can be damaging to your employer brand.
- Impact on Clients: Absenteeism and presenteeism have inevitable consequences on your clients such as increased delays or poor customer service. Your employees are the face of your brand, therefore it is critical that you support their wellbeing.
- Consequences for the Work Environment: A lack of support for the emotional health of employees can result in a lack of engagement, trust, and negatively impact your culture and work environment.
- Increased Disability Expenses: In Canada alone, 30-70% of all disability claims are due to mental health issues.[iii]
If doing nothing leads to these various consequences, the reverse is also true. An organization that promotes wellness in the workplace in a variety of ways will see improvements in turnover, absenteeism, presenteeism, and so on.
People Judge A Brand By The Way Employees Are Treated
Modern-day media allows for the circulation of both positive and negative brand reviews. Therefore, demonstrating that emotional health in the workplace is a priority not only looks good externally, but it can help your organization attract top talent.
Additionally, decision-makers have a personal brand that is associated with their leadership style. In today’s environment, a lack of commitment to emotional health in the workplace can damage a leader’s reputation. For more on this, see our previous post: Leaders, how would you like to be remembered?
Change comes from the top. If the highest figure in your organization supports a culture of wellness, this mentality will spread across the organization. By role-modeling the appropriate behaviours from the top-down, you’ll have the greatest impact.
Do you want to help your leaders learn how to support employees manage difficult personal issues to ensure compassion, engagement, and performance?
[i] Deloitte Insights. (2019). The ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business.
[ii] Smetanin, P., Stiff, D., Briante, C., Adair, C., Ahmad, S., Khan, M. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.
[iii] Mental Health Commission of Canada. Case study research project – final report. https://www.mental healthcommission.ca/English/csrp-backgrounder.