solutions workplace wellness

Study Notes Business Solutions to Help Address Mental Wellness

For businesses looking to help employees address mental health concerns — which impacts individual health as well as company productivity — a well-run workplace program can provide ways to move from “problems to solutions.”

The new report published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine highlights such potential solutions. It is titled “Mental Health in the Workplace: A Call to Action Proceedings from the Mental Health in the Workplace: Public Health Summit.”

To do this, the study reviewed actual case studies. The report concludes: “To support other employers in their efforts to do likewise, several strategies were proposed targeting three levels of intervention: individual, organizational, and societal.”

These include:

  • “To help individual workers, employers were encouraged to provide access to the full range of medical and psychotherapeutic treatments by leveraging well-established and evidence-based interventions.”
  • “One form of treatment, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), has been shown to be especially effective in treating depression symptoms among workers. Access to these treatments should be provided at the parity with physical health interventions: with as few barriers as possible. For example, computerized, telephonic, and a combination of face-to-face with individual emails are some innovative methods for providing CBT that have shown promise in increasing treatment accessibility.”

Interventions can make a marked difference — for employees and businesses. The report notes that:

  • “For individuals with depression, the literature has shown that more than 80% of these individuals can be treated quickly and effectively, especially when symptoms are recognized early, and nearly 86% of employees treated for depression report improved work performance.
  • “Further, 80% of those treated for mental illness report “high levels of work efficacy and satisfaction.” In some studies, treatment of depression has been shown to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism by about a 40-60%. Other studies have demonstrated more modest effects.”

To help business leaders recognize the importance of action, addressing the costs can be a strong way to start.

The authors write that “organizational leaders need to be presented with simple business case materials with infographics that clearly communicate the rationale for promoting health, in all forms, at the workplace. This needs to start by monetizing the cost of poor health, especially the impact on workers’ performance and productivity.”

Indeed, this communication effort should be planned and precise. The authors note that “there is a need to ‘package’ information and recommended solutions in simple and unambiguous terms, for example, in the form of a ‘how to’ guide grounded on scientific evidence. Also noted is the importance of providing recognition to businesses that have exemplary workplace well-being programs in place, with documentary evidence that their programs ‘work.’”

The study highlights how recognition programs can be effective tools — showing programs or businesses that employ successful best practices.

Interactive Health runs such a program, as it annually names “America’s Healthiest Companies.”

To be recognized, “honorees reached or exceeded an exemplary 70 percent participation rate in their workplace wellness program and their workforce’s overall health risk was low, based on the results of an annual health evaluation that involves a blood draw, lab tests and a detailed questionnaire. This evaluation is often more thorough than what patients receive during routine visits to primary care doctors. This new knowledge motivates people to adopt new habits, which Interactive Health supports through year-round personalized digital tools, coaching and other resources for each participant.”