We talked to Brianna Heusterberg, Director of Strategic Planning and United Way PATH Coordinator at Mental Health America in Sheboygan County, about mental health in the workplace and their Workplace 360 program.
What does research show about the workplace effect on mental health?
Mental Health America recently released its annual State of Mental Health in America Report, which states that 19% of people in the U.S. (47.1 million) are currently living with a mental health condition, a 1.5 million increase over last year’s report. And as the pandemic persists, we are seeing the highest levels of anxiety and depression reported since the pandemic hit in March 2020. This is a troubling trend that is being fueled by loneliness and isolation.
So, how does this relate to the workplace? Well, most adults spend nearly 2,000 hours at work every year—meaning about one-third of our waking hours are spent at our workplace. And with 63% of Americans participating in the U.S. labor force, it only makes sense that our work environment has a huge impact on how engaged, happy, and productive we feel. The workplace can be a key location for activities designed to improve well-being among adults. Workplace wellness programs can identify those at risk and connect them to resources and support to help reduce and manage stress. By addressing mental health issues in the workplace, employers can reduce healthcare costs for their businesses and employees.
Mental Health America’s new Mind the Workplace 2021 Report provides an opportunity to better understand the mental health challenges that employees in the United States are currently experiencing. Data in the report comes from the Work Health Survey, which measured the perceptions of employees across 17 industries in the United States. Survey questions measured financial insecurity, burnout, supervisor support, workplace stress, and mental illness. Some major takeaways from the report:
When looking at these outcomes, it is hard to feel the weight of these struggles—the very same struggles that may even be taking place in own workplaces. Further, the highlighted outcomes solely express the toll mental illness can take on an employee; they do not, however, express the impact mental and emotional health can have on an organization as a whole.
The Center for Prevention and Health states that mental illness and substance abuse issues cost employers between $75 and $115 billion each year through employee absenteeism, reduced productivity, increased health care costs, and more. And while we know that a healthy workplace isn’t the perfect answer or the cure-all, employers can take the steps necessary to build a mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy workplace place so employers stay as healthy as possible.
How can organizations help support the mental health of their employees?
In today’s climate, mental health has become one of the biggest challenges for employees and employers to manage, especially with the continuously evolving work dynamic. Organizations are realizing that they must address all aspects of employee health, including mental health, to avoid a decline in productivity and prevent work burnout.
From a positive perspective, the pandemic has amplified conversations around mental health that were not necessarily in the spotlight before. Of this, an article out of the Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health quoted Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloitte, who said, “The pandemic has cast a spotlight on the need to address mental health in the workplace…as business leaders, we have a responsibility to break down the stigma associated with mental health issues like stress and anxiety to ensure everyone can thrive at work.” Renjen’s statement could not be closer to the truth. And as the tide begins to turn and mental health programs become more common in the workplace, organizations need to ensure they are approaching workplace mental health thoughtfully and methodically.
So, how can businesses play a key role in employee mental health?
MHA Sheboygan strongly believes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness as every experience and organization is different. Everyone has unique needs that require different kinds of help. When thinking about making wellness, especially with a focus on mental health, ingrained in workplace culture, businesses must consider multifaceted approaches that can be tailored to specific needs. Just as physical wellness programs vary for different body types, activity levels, overall health, and more, mental health programs require the same flexibility.
While many of the mental health statistics that are coming out remain staggering, it is important to remember that there is hope. There is hope because so much of what is contributing to employee stress can be addressed in the following ways:
These are just a few ideas that companies can use to begin their journey of becoming a mentally healthy workplace. For more guidance and ideas, you can reach out to MHA Sheboygan’s Executive Director, Julie Preder, to learn more about their comprehensive Workplace Wellness 360° program.
In the end, no matter where employers and company leaders/management feel they are in bringing mental health and wellness to their place of business, when it comes to the mental health culture in their workplace, it is important to act now—not only for the employees who are currently struggling or for those who could struggle in the future, but also for the company itself.
What tips do you suggest for creating a mentally healthier workplace?
As we navigate various transitions over the coming months and years, employers are likely to see employees struggle with anxiety, depression, burnout, and trauma. Those mental health experiences will differ according to race, economic opportunity, job type, parenting and caregiving responsibilities, and many other variables. So, what can managers and leaders do to support people as they face these challenges and stressors?
Employers need to recognize that good mental health doesn’t just mean that someone is living without a diagnosis; mental health is a spectrum and there is no “one size fits all” on what mental wellness may mean for an individual. In the workplace, good mental health represents an employee’s ability to be a fulfilled and resilient member of the team. The resources included in MHA’s Work Health Survey, the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health, MHA’s online screening & assessment tools, and MHA Sheboygan’s Workplace Wellness 360° program demonstrate that workplace mental health actions are not designed solely for those experiencing mental health challenges, but for the entire employee population. Below are a few things that leadership and employees can begin doing now to start the journey of creating a mentally healthy workplace for all.
Leadership & Management
Leaders, managers, and HR personnel have the capacity to create an oasis of well-being for their team, no matter what is occurring within the organization. This group helps the company foster a culture of wellness, thus allowing employees to come to work as their full emotional selves.
Build a culture of connection:
Flexible & supportive workplace:
Share resources & events:
Employees can drive the shift of their workplace culture by utilizing benefits and programming that is given through their workplace, becoming an ambassador to reduce stigma, and setting personal goals to increase their own personal wellness.
Serve as a dedicated wellness champion:
Set wellness goals:
What is Workplace Wellness 360°?
The team at MHA Sheboygan recognizes just how difficult it can be for employers, both big and small, to know how best to implement mental health and wellness programming, from looking at what policies and procedures need to be implemented to exploring evidence-based research regarding comprehensive wellness programs. That is why MHA Sheboygan created their Workplace Wellness 360° Program (WW360°). WW360° is an innovative series centered around mental wellness, developed to educate participants with the skills needed to be productive, balanced, and less-stressed, using evidence-based practices for the mind, body, and heart. By bringing WW360° to your business, employers ensure that they are creating a workplace culture that promotes happiness, mental health, and well-being for all.
WW360° contains a combination of informational training and exercises to educate participants on the broad scope of mental wellness. Participants begin the program by looking at their mental health with a similar lens that they do their physical health, while exploring mental illness and stigma. WW360° also helps acknowledge the gravity of suicide in our community, state, and nation with ways we can help those who may be suffering. The importance of self-care and overall wellness is also included in the WW360° program; offerings and seminars are customized to fit the unique needs of the employees within an organization.
Also, because WW360° is a web-based program (that has the opportunity, when safe, to provide direct service when needed), it can be utilized and implemented by companies across the United States. MHA Sheboygan wholeheartedly believes that they need to meet people where they are at. The team recognizes that many Americans are feeling technology fatigue or “Zoom burnout,” that taking an hour in the middle of a workday for many employers/employees is simply not an option, and that some individuals or organizations simply don’t know where to begin in order to take those first steps toward wellness. WW360° was designed with all these work environments and extra challenges in mind—among many more.
What benefits can an organization expect from the implementation of Workplace Wellness 360°?
The potential benefits of implementing wellness programming, such as WW360°, at your place of business are abundant. Research shows that some of the major benefits include:
Workplace Wellness 360° program specifically has seen participants experience:
How can employers learn more about Workplace Wellness 360°?
To learn more about MHA Sheboygan’s Workplace Wellness 360° program, visit mhasheboygan.org/education-workplace.
Want a free, customized consultation? Contact Julie Preder, Executive Director of MHA Sheboygan at firstname.lastname@example.org.