Today’s fast-paced world means people are expected to be always connected, always busy and always improving. Just as we have seen technology explode over the last decade, so too has specialized skills training, and the pressure to do more with the same amount of time. This new industrial revolution has resulted in the constant need to keep up with the speed of progress.
For a business owner or executive, the “always-on” mentality and hyper connectedness expands access to new opportunities and potential growth. But for employees—and those very same executives too—it can seem like there’s no time for rest or reflection. In this new environment, many people are facing mental health crises for the first time.
1 in 5 adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness. Despite its prevalence, mental illness and mental health are still stigmatized topics, especially in the workplace. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with mental health conditions, yet 68% of workers worry that reaching out to their employers about a mental health issue will affect their job security.
The Effects of Mental Illness on Business
Mental illness is not merely an HR issue or an employee’s problem. It is a silent business problem that can create great costs for employers. Consider this: Employees’ mental health struggles have a direct effect on their job performance. About 80% of adults report difficulties with work, school or social activities because of depression symptoms. And 50% of millennials have left a job for mental health reasons. Rates of mental illness are higher among younger generations. As they enter the workforce it will become increasingly important to address mental health and wellness head-on to mitigate their effects on employee performance.
If employees are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing, they may become distracted, tired, unmotivated, and uninspired at work. They may consistently arrive late and leave early, take more time finishing projects and submit subpar work. Employees in the poorest mental health report double the number of missed workdays, and an estimated 35-45% of absenteeism is due to mental health problems.
In high-stress, fast-paced jobs, employees are even more likely to become anxious or depressed, especially when working long hours that don’t allow time for mental health treatment and self-care. Even if an employer offers EAP benefits—a more traditional offering—to address the mental health of their employees, if they aren’t given time or space to self-reflect on their mental health it’s like blowing into the wind. Education paired with resources is the key. Employees may be unsure if they’re suffering from a mental health issue at all if they’re not given the right tools to identify their symptoms. When conversations around mental health are stigmatized in these environments, employees may be more likely to leave their jobs.
“Leading employers are recognizing that offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is not sufficient as a mental health management and support strategy. A wide range of solutions, including on-site and virtual resources are now available, such as Mental Health First Aid training, the Right Direction toolkit for depression, and websites and apps that provide mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other self-management services.”
– Neil Goldfarb, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health (GPBCH)