Human civilization is on an eternal trajectory of progress, surpassing its own achievements to usher new phases of growth and productivity. Unfortunately, this progress is heterogeneous, giving rise to urban clusters where the resources are limited but the people and their aspirations are exponential. This has amplified over time and so has the issue of mental health in the workplace.
In the last two decades alone, mental health issues like depression, stress and anxiety has increased multifold – suicide-rate in US has increased by about 35% between 1999 and 2018 and between 2007 and 2017, behavioral health related medical claims have more than doubled. Several studies show evidence that a large section of the workforce suffer from mental and substance-use conditions and disorders, generally described as behavioral health conditions.
A McKinsey article argues that these conditions are not just real and pervasive but also expensive. They cost enterprises dearly – directly and indirectly. The companies have to pay directly for the treatment expenses, but the larger expense comes from diminished productivity. Organizations can address the mental health issue by making help accessible to the employees and tweaking coverage to include medical health expenditure to increase employee productivity and consequently company performance.
The economic impact
While Covid-19 has amplified behavioral health problems, problems like depression, anxiety and stress were widespread, diminishing the wellbeing of the workforce resulting in absenteeism, decreased productivity and enhanced healthcare costs. These issues are the root cause of many health conditions like blood pressure, heart ailments and even cancer.
World Health Organization recognized employee burnout as a serious mental condition in 2019 and pointed out chronic workplace stress as its primary cause. Research demonstrates that stressors like long work hours, work-family conflict, economic insecurity, etc. are extremely harmful to health and in totality these cost US roughly $189 billion and cause about 120,000 unnecessary deaths every year.
Employees’ mental health related demands are on the rise
In the last few years, awareness around mental health has risen exponentially all across the world. The Covid-19 crisis further accelerated the issue but also made discussions around mental health of employees more open. Many companies started taking special initiatives to address the mental health issues of employees setting up a new precedent.
But, even pre-Covid, employee demands around mental health was rising. In a 2019 survey of US employees conducted by Ginger, 91% of the respondents said that they expected their employers to care more for their emotional well-being, while 85% admitted that on-demand mental health care was an important benefit that they consider while evaluating a new job.
Present mental health benefits are falling short
The current mental health facilities available to people not only in offices but also in general is not enough. Despite the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction and Equity Act, health plans do not offer comparable mental and physical health benefits. Visiting a therapist is expensive and much difficult than consulting a primary care practitioner, states a 2017 Milliman report.
Moreover, there is a lack of mental health practitioners – about 60% of US countries did not have even a single psychiatrist, showed a study. Several other studies also highlight the gap between the need of mental health support and the availability of the support. Given the reset button that the pandemic crisis has hit, this is the right time for employers to understand the economic and social benefit of providing mental health facilities to their employees.
But merely establishing mental health facilities will not be enough. Companies must make sure that it is done in a manner that serves the company and its employees most effectively. To find out how that can be done, read the second installment of the article, which will be released soon.