Preventing Mental Illness
An Ipsos Reid poll in 2013 found that nearly half of working Canadians considered their jobs to be the most stressful part of their lives. For those in managerial or professional occupations, mental strain is more significant. Mental stress effects not only health and job performance, but can erode team cohesion. Mental health issues cost the Canadian economy $6 billion a year in lost productivity.
Investing in mental health is a necessary hedge against the onset of mental illness and its associated costs. Workplace wellness programs are a preventative against mental illness by relieving the pressure of work and providing effective coping strategies. They empower individuals while fostering more trust, loyalty and team cohesion.
In Canada, corporations lose an average of 16 days productivity a year per employee due to stress, anxiety and depression related issues. The largest area of increase in long-term disability claims has been in mental health. In 2010, mental health issues were one of the top three causes for short and long-term disability claims made by more than 80% of Canadian employers. Probably the most profound stat is that 40% of worker turnover is due to stress on the job.
A Canadian Community Health Survey found that nearly one in three Canadians described their average day at work as stressful, and that the amount of stress correlated with the amount of income he/she earned. The same study determined that women were generally more stressed than men, while another study found that women (6%) were twice as likely as men (3%) to have experienced a depressive episode in the past year. Parsing this further, employees with children are less likely to get a full night’s sleep while Millennials and Gen Xers are the most stressed generation of all!
Unchecked stress can result in general unhappiness, anxiety, moodiness, poor listening skills, poor communication, difficulty managing life, unfinished tasks, failing to meet deadlines, anger issues, irritability, absenteeism, loss of motivation, loss of interest, decreased productivity, higher insurance costs, accidents, short & long term leaves of absences, more workers compensation cases, and so on… All these behaviours are toxic to a workplace and negatively impact productivity.
When 62% of employees complain of neck pain at the end of their work day, 44% report eye-fatigue, and 34% struggle to get a good night’s sleep, it doesn’t take a psychologist to recognize that people are stretched to the point of exhaustion. A 2014 study found that in Canada, half a million workers are absent each day due to mental health issues.
Absenteeism is a common coping mechanism for people stressed out in the workplace. They feel overloaded, bullied, threatened with budget cuts, financially insecure… Presenteeism is when an employee shows up but their state of mind affects the quality of their work. A 2012 review by McIntyre, Liauw & Taylor in the Journal of Affective Disorders indicated that half of working individuals suffering with depression will not request a short-term leave at any point in their careers yet this same study asserts that a supportive work environment can go a long way in preventing episodes of depression from becoming a disability.
Stress in the workplace can also lead to substance abuse, eating issues, conflicts between colleagues, resentment towards management, and even stealing from the company. Alternately, employees could be dealing with issues in their private lives that spill into the workplace.
One in five Canadians in their lifetime will experience a mental health issue but when mental illness is treated early and effectively, costly disability leaves can be avoided. Most programs are comparatively inexpensive, as low as $500 per individual per year, and they effectively reduce costs for healthcare while reducing losses due to absenteeism and poor productivity.
Supervisors and managers, the more educated, the more driven employees are more susceptible to anxiety and depression because of the complexity and responsibilities of their job. Those who access treatments demonstrate higher productivity because employees who are mentally fit can handle the stress of their jobs and are more resilient.
The first step to preventing mental illness is through education, the second is to find a program that suits your corporate culture. Workplace wellness programs teach individuals how to deal with anxiety and depression with a wide range of strategies that encourage and cultivate ambition and focus. Wellness programs are a necessary investment in the long-term health and stability of your company.