Prioritizing Employee Mental Health

Mental distress has long been a hidden issue in the workplace. Employees are often unaware of the resources – if any – available to help them, while employers may be unaware of the effects mental distress has on safety and their bottom lines.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has brought this issue to the forefront for many employers. Over 40% of Americans report experiencing increases in mental distress due to the pandemic, and over 85% say that work impacts their mental health. Employers are now recognizing the effects of employee mental distress, including increased absenteeism, negative impacts on productivity and profits, and an increase in health care costs.

Encouragingly, organizations see a return of $4 for every dollar invested in mental health treatment in improved health and productivity. Supporting treatment alone, however, is not enough. Employers should prioritize protecting employee mental health and safety on an equal level as physical safety.

To help employers understand the pivotal role they play in supporting the mental health of their employees, NSC and NORC at the University of Chicago created the Mental Health Cost Calculator for Employers, funded by Nationwide. This authoritative, easy-to-use tool provides business leaders with data-driven insight about the costs of employee mental distress in their workplaces, showing that employers spend, on average, over $15,000 a year on employees who experience mental distress. This data highlights the costs pre-COVID-19 and likely underrepresents the current cost to employers due to the increase in Americans experiencing mental distress.

NSC encourages business leaders to take action to support their workers. We stand ready to partner with you to prioritize mental health, with a robust offering of materials, consulting services and additional resources to help keep employees safe at nsc.org/MentalHealth

See the methodology behind the calculator and the key takeaways.

You can also order a special digital edition of Family Safety & Health® magazine for your workers that focuses on mental health, and substance use and recovery.

NSC Recommendations for Employers

NSC recognizes addressing mental distress in the workplace takes the whole organization, including leadership, human resources, supervisors and managers, safety professionals, and of course, employees themselves. Key actions to take include:

  • Understanding how workplace conditions and culture can impact employee mental health and, in some cases, create or enhance employee mental distress
  • Ensuring leaders, managers and supervisors prioritize employee mental health and wellbeing, work to prevent mental distress, and support employees experiencing mental distress
  • Ensuring human resources develops robust, compassionate, and clear policies, programs, and procedures to prevent mental distress and support employees experiencing mental distress
  • Providing employee education and increasing awareness on mental wellbeing and distress, as well as awareness of workplace resources, supports and policies

Check out additional recommendations for employers, including NSC partners’ resources and solutions on addressing employee mental health and distress.

Mental Health America offers a number of mental health resources for the workplace, including screening tools, research reports and toolkits. See a full list of these resources here.

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