Understand how mental health impacts your employees
Our mental health affects everything – our relationships, our physical health, our family dynamics, and our work. When people feel happy, like they are managing their life well, and have a good work life balance, physical and mental health, financially stable and with strong relationships, their wellbeing will be improved, which will mean they can show up and succeed in the workplace.
Unfortunately not everyone feels this way. Our research All Worked Up found that 1 in 3 US and UK employees experience moderate to severe anxiety and/or depression – and that a third in the US and half in the UK have not sought professional help, mainly due to mental health stigma and embarrassment. The Employee Mental Health Report drawn from the analysis of 150,000 conversations that 11,300 employees from 11 organizations and 60 countries had with Wysa’s AI chat platform shows 32% employees expressed feeling low, bad, numb, depressed, and sad throughout the day and 75% employees reported low to moderate energy on average throughout the day. Overwork, tight deadlines, a lack of psychological safety, and challenging relationships in the workplace can exacerbate common mental health concerns and have a detrimental impact on employee wellbeing.
The World Health Organization reports that every year an estimated 12 billion working days are lost as a result of depression and anxiety – and the lost productivity costs US$ 1 trillion per year. The worsening of mental health in the workplace is prompting responsible employers to consider what mental health support they can offer and provide mental health benefits such as employee assistance programs or other health services.
There are numerous benefits to providing access to mental health support. Deloitte estimate that for every £1 employees invest, they recoup £5 in increased productivity and business results. It’s clear that supporting employees with their mental health not only has economic benefits for an organization, but is the right thing to do.
Increased employee retention
Depression is the leading cause of disability, and affects around 1 in 20 people around the world – although as our research shows the prevalence among employees is much higher. Poor mental health results in burnout and is a predicator of people leaving jobs. In fact, Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work Report found that 68% of Millennials and 81% of Gen Zers have left roles for mental health reasons. It usually costs 6-8 months of an individual’s salary to recruit, so the cost of losing an individual, their knowledge, skills and relationships is an expensive one.
Improves employee attraction
The American Psychological Associations ’s 2022 Work and Well-being Survey found that 81% of individuals said that when looking for future job opportunities they will be actively seeking workplaces that support mental health. As mental health becomes more widely discussed in society, it is becoming an important factor in being a workplace of choice for professionals. Clearly showing that prioritizing the mental health care of your employees will make you a more attractive employer.
Improves company culture
Workplaces that prioritize employee mental health are generally better places to be. In All Worked Up we found that 8 in 10 would prefer to speak to an app like Wysa than their HR teams, which suggests that at the moment employees do not feel that their workplaces are safe or supportive. A workplace with a positive culture, where it is normal to discuss mental health struggles and that feels psychologically safe is more likely to be be productive according to numerous studies. Employers should take steps to improve the company culture surrounding mental health and reduce stigma in the workplace.
9 ways to improve employee mental health benefits
1. Understand your organization
It’s only possible to improve employee mental health if you know the current situation and measure the mental health of your employees. It’s important to listen to employees and find out what their concerns, stresses and situations are. Wysa’s completely anonymous, company-wide digital screening tool: The Employee Mental Health Barometer allows businesses to gather insights into current levels of anxiety and depression within your organization, all in an anonymous and private way. Using the screen tools recommended by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for anxiety and depression it takes a clinically robust approach to understanding the level of need in your workplace, which enables you to then take action to address it.
2. Employee assistance program (EAP)
Employee assistance programs or EAP services, including those focusing on behavioral health are essential for supporting employees with their mental health. Many offer access to tools for mental and physical health, medical care when necessary, as well as support for the wellbeing implications of having financial issues, for example, or struggling with elder care. They can also provide access to health insurance providers or a Health Savings Account (HSA) which is type of savings account where people can put aside money to pay for qualified medical expenses, without paying taxes on it. Although EAPs come at an additional cost to employers the benefits of access far outweigh the expense and provide a number of treatment options when wellness is starting to be affected.
3. Offer traditional therapy or counseling sessions
Some mental health needs require professional support, such as from a therapist, counsellor or psychologist. By providing access to professionals who are trained and skilled in dealing with a level of need that can span poor wellbeing to significant mental illness you are supporting employees with a space to talk about their worries, as well as the opportunity to develop skills and mechanisms for dealing with them. Wysa’s coaching services are part of the Wysa for employers offering, providing unlimited human coaching through 45 minute one-on-one sessions with a dedicated wellbeing coach and asynchronous texting in between coaching sessions.
4. Incorporate online mental health apps
Whilst in person therapy and counseling is very beneficial, due to its limited availability further support may sometimes be needed. As the Employee Mental Health Report showed, people are stressed and anxious during the working day – when they may not be able to reach their therapist. 21% of those surveyed in All Worked Up said they feel most stressed about work the night before they start their working week. It’s essential to have digital solutions that are available whenever and wherever people need them. People use the Wysa app around the clock, knowing that they can get support they need at any moment because it is accessible to everyone who needs it, when they need it, at times when other mental health services are not available. The emotional bond that an individual has to Wysa’s app has been shown to be equivalent to that of in person mental health counseling, according to an indepedent scientific study.
5. Resilience training
Resilience in the workplace is so important, as it is resilience that enables people to respond in a positive way to challenges, and learn and grow from them. Offer resilience training so that people develop healthy ways to deal with difficulties without them affecting their mental wellbeing in a negative way. Being able to do this can help people manage their stresses before they escalate into more severe mental health issues. Access to training should be made available to the whole company, so that all employees can boost their resilience.
6. Mindfulness and stress management workshops
We cannot alleviate all stress. Stress is a natural response to challenges or changes in our environment. However, not all stress is the same. Good stress, also known as eustress, gives us just the right push we need to work towards our goals, preparing better for these goals helps us feel motivated and inspired. But bad stress, or distress, can be harmful to one’s health and well-being. Chronic stress, which is long-term and repeated exposure to stressors, can have negative effects, such as anxiety, depression, poor concentration, decreased performance, and even physical health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.
It is essential to recognize the difference between good and bad stress and take steps to manage stress effectively. Strategies like exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques can help individuals cope with stress and reduce its negative effects on health and wellbeing. Wysa offers webinars and workshops to help people develop the skills they need to manage their stress. Mindfulness exercises are also included in a number of the packs in the app, so that people can take five minutes out to centre and refocus at a time that suits them.
7. Mental health leave days
In All Worked Up we found 1 in 5 (19%) US employees and 1 in 8 (13%) UK employees would feel comfortable taking a day off for their mental health and disclosing the reason why. Having mental health days as part of your employee benefits means that people can take time away from work when mental health issues become difficult, or even if they are just feeling over stressed and needing to reset their work life balance. Key is taking a ‘no questions asked’ approach – people should be able to take a mental health day at a time that suits them.
8. Flexible scheduling
In a post pandemic world we have got more used to flexible and hybrid working. Studies show flexible working can actually boost productivity, and this includes geographic flexibility. Offering flexible working schedules enables people to work at a time when their energy levels and engagement are most high, and balance other responsibilities such as caring, or even allowing them to take time to exercise. Although research is limited, there are suggestions that flexible working and scheduling can improve employees’ mental health.
9. Invest in leadership training
Leaders play a crucial role in the culture of an organization and affect the wellbeing of members of their teams, including their satisfaction and health. Work with them to understand the impact they can have on helping employees. Invest in training to identify what the predicators of a mental illness may be, and how they can intervene at an early stage to support employees. One way of doing this is using the idea of a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, which enables employees to identify what good looks like for them, what markers may signify they are struggling, and what interventions would be most appropriate and supportive if needed.
By providing a range of mental health benefits that are tailored for the individual person, your company, and their needs it is possible to positively impact employee wellness, which in turn will improve retention, attraction, culture and productivity for the better. Wysa’s complete workplace solution provides support spectrum of behavioral health needs both at work and home, and the clinically proven Wysa AI guides individuals down a curated care path based on what mental health resources they need to feel their best. Employers using Wysa experience significant yearly savings associated with absenteeism, productivity and voluntary turnover, and users see a significant decrease in anxiety and depression. If you would like to know more, schedule a demo.