In the past few years, employers have begun to talk about and provide mental health support for their employees. But shifts in organizational culture have proved complex, creating new problems as well as moving the conversation forward.
The most recent news on a global scale was seen in this year’s Tokyo Olympics. The 24-year-old U.S. gymnast Simone Biles decided to withdraw from five of her six Olympics finals for the safety of her mental health, and this was just the tip of the iceberg. Jessica Bartley, director of mental health services for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, claimed she received around ten requests from athletes for mental health resources per day during the Olympics.
This story created high levels of interest in the overall topic of mental health. NewsWhip, a data analytics company, reported that the news of Biles’s withdrawal spawned more interactions with stories related to mental health than Oprah Winfrey’s interview of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle or tennis star Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open.
The Toll Of Not Addressing Mental Health
McKinsey’s 2020 annual employee survey found that employers are very concerned when it comes to their employees’ behavioral health, including mental health, chronic illness and substance use disorder. But McKinsey also found that there is a disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to workplace mental health, especially in the categories of workplace stigma, access to treatment and support from the employer.
A study by the National Safety Council (NSC) shows that employees experiencing mental distress use, on average, $3,000 more in health care services per year than their peers. Further costs such as days lost due to absence ($4,783 per year, per employee) and turnover ($5,733 per year, per employee) only add salt to the wounds, and all of these costs are ultimately borne by the public sector.
Positive Results Of Addressing Mental Health
Organizations which cater proactively to mental health issues always save incremental costs, as highlighted above. Ideally, companies will invest in programs that go beyond intervention and use well-being as their performance metric.
This also means promoting positive mental health and increasing leadership awareness through training and tracking performance. Calculating ROI can quantitatively justify said mental health programs — the NSC study finds that companies see a return of $4 for every $1 spent on mental health — and the further use of data analytics to monitor investments in mental health is only becoming more necessary.
The ROI of organizations that act proactively is overwhelmingly positive: national surveys by McKinsey show that including depression management in primary care reduced missed work days by 30%, and employers offering more support were twice as likely to report a greater than 50% return-to-work rate after mental-health-related disability leave.
Organizations now have better opportunities than ever to address mental health challenges by more timely interventions, increasing accessibility and taking accountability.