The Power and Importance of Prioritizing Employee Mental Health

by Lauren Schneider February 27th, 2023

Mental health is a vital aspect of overall well-being, and it is essential for employers to recognize the significant impact that employee mental health has on their performance, productivity, and overall business success.

In our recent episode of Getting Personal with Compt, we chatted with Rachael Robinson, People and Strategic Operations Manager at MYNDUP, a startup dedicated to stopping the “one-size-fits-all" approach to mental health by offering live 1-1 video sessions across the whole mental health spectrum. Founded in February 2020, the company currently supports 50,000+ employees in over 30 countries across 4 continents.

In our conversation, we discussed the importance of prioritizing employee mental health, some relevant statistics to support this claim, and the ways in which employers can take action toward creating a supportive work environment for employees.

The importance of employee mental health

The importance of employee mental health cannot be overstated. Research has consistently shown that employees who are mentally healthy are more productive, engaged, and committed to their work. They are also less likely to miss work due to illness or stress-related issues, which can result in significant financial losses for companies.

Moreover, prioritizing employee mental health also leads to personal benefits for employees. Employees working in supportive environments prioritizing their mental health report feeling happier, more satisfied with their work, and more connected to their colleagues.

According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy over $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Furthermore, a study by the American Institute of Stress found that workplace stress costs U.S. businesses up to $300 billion annually.

In addition, a survey by the American Psychological Association found that 75% of American workers experience stress related to work, and almost half of them report that their stress levels have increased over the past year.

Pre-pandemic, an estimated 970 million people in the world were living with a mental disorder; there are now an estimated 25% more and this is only based on reported data. 

How many more are suffering in silence without support?

Moreover, only 10% of employees seek mental health support. An estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of $1 trillion per year in lost productivity (WHO 2022).

Rachael’s story

Robinson shared, considering 1 in 4 people is affected by mental health in some way, it was no surprise she had been “cut deep by the lows of mental health.”

“Most people wouldn’t know, but I feel anxiety most days,” she said. “I probably have high functioning anxiety - you know, that fight or flight feeling?”

When she thinks back on her childhood, she said it makes sense, as what happens during adolescence often sets the tone for the rest of a person’s life.

Robinson’s father was diagnosed with bipolar depression following redundancy at work in the 1990s. At the time, she was young so Robinson said she doesn’t know all the details, but she does remember her father being electric shock treatment as a “cure.” 

“After that, he changed,” she recalled. “He became obsessed with unreachable standards of appearance, fitness, and success. And when it wasn’t obtainable it all got a bit ugly." 

"He was unfaithful to my mum, he was violent to her, and me and my brothers. And when she finally had the strength to leave for good, he started to stalk us. I had to be police escorted home with my brothers some days, we had an alarm straight through to the local police station. He went to prison so many times for what he did to us, his family disowned him, and eventually took his own life.” 

Robinson added that she was too young to understand it all but now sees how tormented he was and how he was failed by so many. For years, she ignored the impact these events had on her own life. 

“I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about it and - to be honest - it never crossed my mind as I just wanted to be strong for my mum.”

As a result, she learned to cope with anxiety and, while it enabled her to achieve some amazing things - it inspired her to study law and it’s how she began a career in HR - she has had to find a balance between being driven by high standards and being consumed by it. 

Robinson has worked in HR for over a decade and owes much of her success to a “truly wonderful boss” in her first role. “She knows who she is and I’ll always be grateful for her.”

Her view of HR had always been employee-focused with high standards.

When she became a mother, she started to see how her perfectionism was detrimental and with a pandemic happening, she burnt out. She was offered coaching and therapy but said it was too late. She took two years off which she spent with her daughter and never thought she’d go back to HR but found the perfect opportunity for her mental health in a company focused on building better employee mental health support for others - MYNDUP.

“We spend so much time at work so having good mental health and support to me is really crucial,” she said.

Going beyond Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are modeled to offer short-term, solution-based issues via counseling. They don’t typically offer coaching either; if they do, it tends to come at the cost of the user - the employee. 

EAPs do not typically offer support for grief, for example, as it is not deemed “solution-based,” so those seeking support may be turned away or signposted to other resources.

Robinson mentioned how she attempted to use an EAP during the pandemic and was faced with a two-week wait to be triaged and an additional 8-week wait to speak with a counselor. 

“It was just too late for me,” she said.

She also explained that mental health support needs to be ongoing, not just a one-and-done as so many EAPs are structured, and people also shouldn’t be limited to clinical solutions.

“I think it’s easy to assume maintaining good mental health is via clinical solutions like psychotherapy or talking therapy or counseling, but [MYNDUP] offers a full spectrum through life coaching, career and executive coaching, maternity, relationship counseling, nutrition, hypnotherapy, mindfulness. We reduce barriers to care so instead of being triaged through EAP and facing long wait times, we give the power to our users to choose who they need or we can suggest based on their needs.”

Most importantly, this help can be accessed same-day for those in crisis, which EAPs simply cannot support.

“This is the benefit I wish I had in my toolbox in other roles,” Robinson said.

Employee mental health support also directly impacts a company’s bottom line.

The cost of employee attrition is equivalent to two-thirds of their salary. 63% of MYNDUP users say they would quit their current jobs if it weren’t for the support they receive through the app. 

man wearing white top using MacBook

How can employers prioritize employee mental health?

Employers have a responsibility to create a supportive work environment that prioritizes the mental health of their employees. Here are a few ways that employers can put mental health first:

  1. Promote work-life balance by encouraging employees to take time off and providing flexible work arrangements.
  2. Create a supportive workplace culture that promotes open communication and encourages employees to seek help if they are struggling.
  3. Offer employee assistance programs plus alternative solutions like health and wellness stipends or access to a comprehensive mental health app that provides access to mental health resources and support.
  4. Train managers and supervisors on identifying and addressing mental health concerns in the workplace.
  5. Make mental health a priority by including it in workplace wellness programs and initiatives.

Prioritizing employee mental health is crucial for both personal and business success. Employers who create supportive work environments that prioritize mental health will see increased productivity, engagement, and overall well-being in their employees. By taking action to put employee mental health at the forefront, employers can create a healthier and more productive workplace for everyone.

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