While attitudes towards employee health and wellbeing have improved significantly in recent years, there is still a lack of understanding and support for mental health issues in the modern workplace. We spend nearly 1/3rd of our lives on work, according to the WHO. It is highly imperative that organizations strive to create better work environments for employees.
Mental illnesses: A significant impact on global workforce productivity
The World Health Organization conducted a study on mental illness in the workplace and one of the conclusions is that there is a global loss of 1 Trillion USD in productivity, due to a large number of the global workforce suffering from Depression and Anxiety related disorders. While the occurrence of depression and anxiety has deep personal impact, its impact in the workplace cannot be understated. There are a number of factors that can contribute to the rise or occurrence of instances of anxiety and depression in the workplace:
Unemployment is seen as a definitive risk factor for mental health problems, while securing or returning to work is seen as a protective factor. Ironically, due to the stigma attached to mental illnesses, there are often cases of discrimination against people that suffer from a mental illness, and they are unable to secure or retain employment in the work force. This in turn can exacerbate the mental illness. It is, therefore, important for organizations and their workplaces to institute policies that prevent the rise of mental illnesses and to protect those that suffer from them.
It is important to note, that although someone may be suffering from a mental illness, the symptoms shown at work can be quite different from other settings. Reasons for this can be employees’ fear of losing their job or managers’ inability to handle a situation where an employee presents themselves with a mental illness. Behaviors such as nervousness, restlessness or irritability are more common in the workplace. Symptoms of depression and anxiety can manifest in the form of physical complaints such as aches and pains. Employees become passive and non-productive, and also exhibit symptoms of fatigue as a result of sleeplessness that may arise due to depression and anxiety
Apart from a significant loss to the economy, a lack of initiatives that address mental health in the workplace can have indirect effects such as ‘increased rates of short-term disability, safety incidents, absenteeism and presenteeism (working while sick), underperformance and unrealized output, stress imposed on team members, overtime, and overstaffing to cover sick-day absences, and hiring costs related to recruitment and retention’, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM).
What can employers do?
A study by the WHO estimated that for every 1$ USD spent on common mental disorders, there was a 4$ USD return in improved health and productivity.
The Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 was implemented on July 7 this year.
It is imperative to inform and educate India’s population about mental health, it’s disorders and the various methods of treatment that are available in this country.
Reaching out to someone who is suicidal may seem daunting; but doctors say that sometimes, a single conversation can save a life.