According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a full-time employed person works an average of 8.5 hours a day. That is a significant amount of time to spend in one place that can be stressful on your physical health and mental health. Physical health is easy to have empathy for, but talking about mental health in the workplace is still stigmatized. The CDC reports that depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time. How do we combat this current lose-lose situation? Businesses all over the country have started providing employees with resources for mental health and stress management. It is up to the employer and employee to keep mental health on the table and work towards a healthy environment for all.
Employer actions can make a large impact on your employees mental health. The workplace is already a center for social support. Depending on the size of your business, you might not be able to offer health insurance to your employees, but there are still ways to contribute to positive emotional health. Train managers to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and give the employees a chance to discuss workplace issues that can directly affect their level of stress at work. Prudential Financial is an excellent example of normalizing the discussion of mental health in the workplace. They offer monthly onsite workshops by healthcare professionals and weekly 15-minute meditation sessions. Every year since they have implemented their plan there has been a steady decrease of risk factors for stress and depression.
The first step for an employee to take is to open the discussion with management. The more time spent talking about mental illness, the faster the stigma will deteriorate. The truth is, no one should feel ashamed for feeling overwhelmed about any aspect of their life. When so much time of your life is spent at work, it should be a supportive space for everyone that works there. If your current place of does not have an advocate, put that to the top of your priority list. Offer information to your coworkers, not everyone may be comfortable talking about it at first, but you could be making more of an impact than you think.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The World Health Organization has reported that every $1 spent on mental health treatment sees a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. For resources on workplace mental health, please check out Center For Workplace Mental Health presented by the American Psychiatric Association Foundation.