The impacts from mental health in the workplace can be widespread — on individuals, costs, productivity, and more. These are among the reasons that a well-run workplace wellness program may help address this important issue.
So how can businesses help employees move from “illness to health?”
A new report published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine addresses the question. It is titled “Mental Health in the Workplace: A Call to Action Proceedings from the Mental Health in the Workplace: Public Health Summit.”
Importantly, the report notes the integral role the workplace can play in helping employees manage their health.
It states: “To achieve this aspirational state of health described by the WHO, employers need to play an active role. To nurture a healthy workforce, employers must recognize that their obligation to employees extends beyond making available, with minimal barriers, evidence-based clinical treatments for people with mental illnesses (i.e., tertiary intervention). It must first begin with primary prevention – focusing on reducing the onset of disease by addressing modifiable risk factors and bolstering protective factors in the workplace that are within the control of the employer.”
What can businesses do? The report highlights culture, design, support programs, and more:
- “Achieving health in the workplace begins by building and sustaining workplace cultures that enhance health and well-being, and focusing on the protection of workers from safety and health hazards in the work environment.”
- “Importantly, the design of work needs to address worker safety, health and well-being as well as attending to the needs of individual workers…The creation of healthy company cultures begins with top leadership support and includes every level of management from the C-suite to first-line supervisors.”
- “The work environment should foster support from both co-workers and supervisors…These attributes of a healthy workplace can foster a heightened esprit de corp, and, in turn, act as a magnet to attract and retain top talent.”
Education matters, too. The report states:
- “Employers should also have in place support for workers showing signs of mental health problems. Secondary prevention methods such as early detection of signs and symptoms of depression and other mental health problems (e.g., monitoring and screening tools) can help with diagnosis and proper referral for treatment before the disease becomes full-blown.”
- Early intervention is vital and employers can provide these intervention through continuation of primary prevention efforts, such as increasing mental health literacy and reducing stigma, as well as providing resources such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
- “By increasing education about mental health, providing support and understanding to mitigate the stigma and fear related to exposing one’s mental health problems, employees exhibiting symptoms may be more likely to seek care.”
As the authors note: “To be effective, healthy company cultures address both individual and organizational concerns”