Workplace Wellness: Effects of Mental Health in the Workplace
A new Paychex survey reveals that more than 40% of the employees surveyed are experiencing some combination of mental health, performance, and stress issues since the COVID-19 pandemic began1. They reported problems such as depression, lack of motivation, reduced focus, insomnia, and decreased teamwork.
The reasons for this downturn in mental health depend on the individual, but stressors may include the isolation of remote working, changes in daily routine, worrying about the health of family members, and financial anxiety, to name a few. Employees may be feeling distracted and demotivated, or depressed and anxious. When they are unable to focus on their jobs, the effects can be devastating to businesses.
The high cost of poor employee mental health
From a fiscal perspective alone, the effects of poor employee mental health can cost U.S. employers between $80 billion and $100 billion a year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Lost productivity, absenteeism, having to recruit and train employees due to high turnover, potentially higher health insurance costs— even for small businesses, the costs can add up.
Increasing employer awareness
While the employers we surveyed said they are aware of the costs of mental health issues to their business, they may not be as aware of the extent of employee’s mental health struggles. Employers say that since the COVID-19 pandemic began:
- More than 3x more likely than employees to believe employee motivation or focus has improved
- 2x as likely to think company teamwork is better
Conversely, many of the employees surveyed said they felt less motivated since the pandemic began and didn’t think teamwork was better or had changed appreciably.
The Business Cost of the employer-employee disconnect of mental health
One reason may be that employees don’t feel comfortable talking about their personal or mental health issues with superiors. In a Paychex survey conducted last year, more than half of respondents – 54% – said they felt uncomfortable talking to their supervisors about mental health. Some even feared that discussing it could lead to being fired or furloughed (30%) or cost them a promotion (29%). If employees did talk about their personal issues, they were most likely to confide in co-workers.
Although they may not be as aware of their employees’ declining mental health, employers are aware of the dramatic impact of workplace mental health issues on their bottom line. 40% say mental health issues can have a negative impact of productivity, revenues, customer service, and the potential to compete.
- Revenue is decreasing/will decrease 40%
- Profitability is decreasing/will decrease 39%
- Losing/will lose customers 30%
- Morale is decreasing/will decrease 27%
- Output has diminished/will diminish 26%
- Competitiveness is decreasing/will decrease 20%
How can your business improve employee well-being?
Offer a rich mix of benefits. Employers can help their workers feel less stressed about their health and their financial future with affordable health insurance, an employer-sponsored retirement plan, and programs that offer financial fitness support.
Flexible scheduling. Allowing employees to work flexible hours can be a relatively simple, low-cost option that may help their work/life balance.
Check-ins with supervisors. Regular meetings may give supervisors the ability to gauge how the employee is feeling. Discussions can include issues the employee is having, solutions available to them, and career pathing to keep the employee engaged and working towards goals.
A confidential online communication system. If a question or issue should arise, employees may contact their HR professional or supervisor online through an internal communication system. This can be a convenient, confidential way to keep supervisors and employees connected. It can also allow the supervisor to respond quickly and take any necessary steps.
An Employee Assistance Program
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offer free, confidential assistance that connect employees to a broad range of services that can include everything from finding childcare to fitness programs to counseling referrals. According to our 2021 study, roughly one in five principals is extremely or very likely to offer an EAP within the next 12 months.
Effects of good mental health in the workplace
Wellness programs and benefits can be major factors for today’s job seekers.
Sixty percent of employees surveyed say that employee wellness benefits will factor into the selection of their next job. Eighty percent between the ages of 18-39 will prioritize these benefits in a job search. And sixty-six percent of employees report feeling better about their employer after using a benefit.
Increase productivity. Healthier, happier employees. A more vibrant, supportive workplace. The ability to attract top talent and retain your most valued employees. All of these can result from an investment in your employees’ well-being.
1 Survey of 500 principals and employees at U.S. companies with two to 99 employees December 10 to 30, 2020
 500 U.S. SMB Principals and employees — 250 each — at organizations with 2 to 99 employees. Survey was fielded December 10-30, 2020.