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How HR Can Improve Mental Health and Productivity in the Workplace

Right now, HR professionals are more focused on employee well-being than ever before. The new normal provided a fresh perspective on how employee mental health shows up in the workplace. In addition, record-high turnover rates have made it clear that business outcomes are directly related to employee mental health. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, resignation rates for mid-level workers are on the rise. Notably, resignation rates increased most among industries whose work was directly affected by pandemic stress. 

At the same time, 42% of employees reported that their mental health declined since the start of the pandemic. A study at Pathways at Work found that employee burnout, stress, anxiety, and fatigue rates remain high despite improvements to pandemic conditions. An astounding 9 out of 10 employees are still experiencing burnout this year. 

Fortunately, there’s plenty HR can do internally to support the mental health of employees. And as you’ll see, focusing on employee well-being benefits your team members & organization. Here’s how improving mental health and productivity in the workplace go hand and hand. 


The Link Between Mental Health & Productivity and Performance at Work

Employee mental health is a fundamental aspect of any workplace. How employees feel affects their day-to-day work and productivity levels. When companies ignore the role employee mental health has in the workplace, it leads to reduced productivity and poor job performance. 

The Center for Workplace Mental Health reports that while 6-7% of employees experience depression, only about half seek treatment. Depression is a leading cause of presenteeism. Presenteeism is the lost productivity when employees show up for work but can’t perform mentally or creatively. 

Ultimately, allowing the mental health of your employees to go unchecked can cost a lot of money. The World Health Organization reports that the global economy loses 1 trillion per year in productivity due to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, every US dollar invested into treatment and prevention for mental health issues sees a return of $4.


Promoting Well-Being at Work Is Good for Your Bottom Line

Prioritizing workplace mental health isn’t just good for team members’ well-being— it benefits your bottom line. Research shows that for every $1 invested in employee mental health, there was a $4 return. Of course, supporting employee mental health is good for business. But a key part of successfully promoting employee well-being is your company culture. 

Leaders should also aim to create a healthier company culture to improve employee well-being and productivity levels. Employers should regularly take an inventory of what steps they’re taking to:

  1.  support the everyday well-being of employees
  2.  identify parts of the work environment that could negatively impact the mental health of their employees, and
  3.  address any cultural issues that arise in a meaningful, timely way.


Here’s How to Boost Performance and Retention by Supporting Mental Health

The Yerkes-Dodson law shows us that too little and too much stress are both detrimental to performance. The right amount of stress—the kind that motivates and challenges a person-- lies somewhere in the middle. Use the following strategies to make sure employees’ stress levels are optimal.

Normalize Talking About It

Encourage leadership to be transparent about their personal experiences with their mental well-being. While starting a conversation about mental health may seem insignificant, leadership sets the tone for the rest of the team. Leaders have the power to create a stigma-free environment where employees can safely discuss their mental health. 

Taking an open approach to conversations about overall health is often the very thing that keeps employees mentally healthy. The Harvard Business Review reported in 2021 that workers who felt that their employers valued their mental health issues had high levels of productivity and lower rates of absenteeism. In addition to increased productivity, they were even less likely to experience serious mental health issues. 

Prioritize a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Longer hours don’t necessarily lead to more work getting done. For example, Stanford University found that employees who put in more than 50 hours of work a week decreased output. 

Set the tone for a healthy work-life balance by demonstrating time boundaries. Setting a work-life balance example at the leadership level allows employees to feel free to create their boundaries between work and home. Leadership can set expectations by working reasonable hours, offering paid time off, and allowing remote work.

Another way to support a work-life balance is offering full-time employees more flexibility. For example, employees with children had considerable obstacles to balancing work with their home lives. Whether they’re experiencing burnout from school closures or anxiety about their children’s health, being flexible with their schedule can improve their work-life balance, mental health, and overall work productivity.

Help Your Employees Learn to Manage Their Stress

Work-related stress can lead to bigger mental and physical health problems. Educate leadership and employees on how to recognize when they or their coworkers are showing signs of burnout. Encourage them to employ stress management techniques at work and provide resources that improve their ability to cope with stress. For example, allowing employees to take breaks during work to practice mindfulness or engage in physical activity can help combat burnout. 

Common signs of burnout are:

  • Fatigue, trouble sleeping, and presenteeism
  • An unusually high number of mistakes
  • Irritability or an increase in workplace conflicts
  • Substance abuse
  • Headaches
  • Loss of purpose
  • Cynicism

As burnout is one of the leading causes of lost productivity and turnover, it poses a significant business risk. Preventing and combating burnout decreases employee absenteeism, presenteeism, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and several physical conditions.

Implement a Workplace Mental Health Training Program

The best way to support employees' well-being is by offering a proactive mental health training program. An effective workplace mental health program teaches employees how to manage their mental health to remain productive at work. 

The Pathways At Work program is a fully customizable workplace mental health solution that teaches employees how to manage their well-being proactively. With live and on-demand training workshops and small group discussions, employees get the tools and resources they need to manage their well-being and remain productive at work. 

Investing in mental health is a win-win.

If your HR team is ready to prioritize productivity and support employee well-being, our team of mental health professionals can help.  Reach out today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our Behavioral Wellness Experts.Read Our Report - The Mind at Work: A Report on Employee Mental Health

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