May is Mental Health Month, and given how much of our lives we spend at work each year -- more than 1,800 hours, on average -- that means mental wellness is a workplace issue as much as it is a personal one. It doesn't take a degree in psychology to know that when people are feeling good, they perform better on the job and at home. The corollary, unfortunately, also tends to be true. When mental states aren't at their optimum, both work and personal lives tend to suffer.
Beyond mere human compassion, reasons for companies to want their employees to be in good mental health are myriad. Below, we list the top five ways that workers having sound mental health benefits employers.
Better bottom lines
Untreated mental illness in workers costs employers a lot of money. In fact, it costs over $1,600 per person per year, amounting to billions of dollars annually. But what kind of savings could the average employer expect to experience if their workers got the treatment they needed? According to a recent report, a return of four dollars for every dollar spent.
“Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance use disorders are prevalent among the US workforce and employers must ensure affordable and improved access to quality support for employees and their families," said Michael Thompson, president and CEO of National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (NAHPC), which published the report. "Parity is the law – and improved performance is good business.”
Employees and contractors who are happy and mentally healthy work more and better than their less-well peers. Each year depression costs the United States 200 million workdays. Globally, that translates to about $1 trillion each year. Just think of all the time and money that could be recouped, so to speak, if that mental illness were treated.
Improved physical health
Oftentimes we try to distinguish between mental and physical health, when in reality the two are intertwined, according to recent studies. In one such study, those with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression were found to be at 53 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Another study strongly linked severe anxiety and depression to early death from cancer. No bones about it -- when the mind suffers, so does the body. When mental illness is treated, a significant impediment to self-care is removed, often leading the path to healthier lifestyles.
Better employee retention
Happier workers are not only more productive, but they're also more likely to stay where they are. Those with mental illness can find work to be an insurmountable challenge; depression alone is estimated to cost sufferers hundreds of thousands of jobs each year. Clear the hurdle of illness and you give employees who were formerly unable to focus or work productively a new lease on their careers.
Improved office environment
If you value mental health and make an effort to de-stigmatize mental illness, you'll be helping create a lighter, sunnier workplace environment in which all feel welcome. And, of course, in those who are mentally healthy, being around clearly contented people is, as the saying goes, infectious.