Writer: Sara Suárez
2 min read May 2022 — Mental health initiatives within companies are becoming more normalized. The reason for this is a deep correlation between mental health, employee productivity and company profits.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the U.S. loses about $1 trillion annually in lost productivity due to depression and anxiety. Companies have a solution. According to the WHO, investing in mental health treatments can have an ROI of 300%, with every dollar invested bringing $4 back in health and productivity in the workplace. In other words, offering mental health programs in a company creates benefits beyond a healthy company culture.
To get a better grasp of perceptions of mental and physical health in the workplace, Atena performed a survey of 1,000 office-based workers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. The survey found that over a third of employees, 35.8%, have lied to their employers about the reasons they take a sick day. Among the many reasons employees lied, mental health concerns such as “feeling down” or “not feeling oneself” led the study with 29% and 24%, respectively. Aetna found that 26.4% of people didn’t feel comfortable telling their boss they were off sick when the reason was related to their mental health. 51.7% of employees diagnosed with mental health issues lied to their employer about their reasons for taking a sick day.
Some employers use “no questions asked” mental health days to give employees the freedom to take off days they feel the need for headspace and don’t want to work. Of course, for many professionals, mental health goes beyond taking a sick day. And for many companies, caring about employees’ mental health goes beyond giving “no questions asked” mental health days.
“The legal profession has among the highest rates of mental illness and substance abuse of any industry. These issues are a focal point for us, so we make services available to constantly address those needs,” said John McDonald, managing partner in Charlotte for McGuireWoods, with Invest:. “Each year, we host a mental health week to spotlight the issue and provide more support for our people. We provide virtual and live events to help all of our employees – attorneys and staff – deal productively with the stresses of life and working in the legal profession.”
According to McDonald, stigma of mental health challenges is still a problem within the industry. “The bottom line, individuals shouldn’t have to figure this out alone, so we have to talk openly about mental health issues and make resources available for all of our people,” McDonald said.
While workplace mental health initiatives are important, healthcare institutions are also rising to meet the mental health needs of their communities. “Throughout the pandemic, we have experienced evidence of further support for innovative initiatives, such as the integration of mental health and substance use disorder services into the primary care medical environment,” said Debra Weeks, CEO of The C.W. Williams Community Health Center, Inc., with Invest:. “This support has helped us address the increase in behavioral health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”