Mental health in the workplace needs to improve. At least, that is what employee benefits provider Unum has found.
In a survey of 1,200 working US adults, the provider found that 56% of workers had felt mentally unwell in the last year. The majority of those who reported this were Gen Z or millennials.
On top of that, 42% of employees said they needed to take time off to address their mental health.
Not only should employers be concerned about lost productivity and the health of their employees, but a lack of wellbeing functions can also impact retention.
Ben Gateley, CEO and co-founder of CharlieHR, previously told UNLEASH: “Your job as a CEO is to build the most effective organization you can. And mental health is one of those things that’s going to stop people from being as effective as possible.”
Concerningly, 70% of workers have said there is room for improvement when it comes to reducing the stigma around mental wellbeing, while 30% reported that their employer does not do a good job of promoting mental health resources or offerings.
In a time when employees are reassessing their options amid a war for talent, ignoring mental health in the workplace won’t fly.
Discussing mental health
The study by Unum found that 42% of respondents will “only seek support in a crisis rather than seeking help proactively”. Additionally, 35% of workers said that the cost of wellbeing services is the largest factor in stopping them addressing their health.
Organizations can leverage technology to help here.
Founder of wellbeing platform MYNDUP, Joel Gujral explained to UNLEASH: “Technology can make a massive difference, and organizations will look to continue to invest in solutions outside of EAP (employee assistance program) and insurance, which alone aren’t enough for employee needs and don’t cover what is actually required.
“Employees are still suffering and confused as to where to go for support in the workplace. Especially with the rapidly changing working environment today, organizations need to conduct an assessment of where the gaps are within the company.
“When there are multiple, scattered solutions, not everything can be covered and employees just won’t know where to go.”
This is a point that was supported by Swapnil Prabha, vice-president of Workforce Wellness Solutions for Unum Group, who discussed the importance of technology: “The ongoing pandemic has further exacerbated the mental health crisis we were already in, but it also helped normalize the need for mental health support.
“Despite the longstanding stigma and other challenges in mental health, the power of technology can make it possible for more people to get access to the right help when they need it.”
Although some leaders may see wellbeing as a generational problem given that it is mostly reported by those under 42 in this study, it is vital to overcome this perspective.
In 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce, as a result, organizations need to understand their concerns amid a resignation and cost of living crisis.
Opening communication channels, digital or in-person, can enable staff to feel more comfortable when addressing wellbeing.
Businesses can also normalize discussions about wellbeing by having mental health days. These days can operate like standard sick days and enable employees to feel confident taking days when they need to.
Companies like Nike have even elected to have a week shutdown to prioritize the wellbeing of workers. This approach helps spread awareness of mental wellbeing needs and can give employees time to reflect on their needs.
Of course, none of these strategies will be effective unless you have a transparent culture that encourages wellbeing discussions and makes it clear what benefits employees can access.
So what are you waiting for? Start talking about mental wellbeing.
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