Employees spend more than one third of their day at work – for some it can be as much as two-thirds. That's at least one meal a day-- and the vast majority of their waking hours. Given all of the time we spend at work, employers and employees coming together to create a healthy work environment benefits everyone.
There is also a business case for workplace wellness. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans have a diagnosable mental health condition each year and many others are at risk. In fact, nearly half of all Americans will have a diagnosable mental condition at some point in their lifetime. Every year, mental illness and substance abuse directly cost employers an estimated $80 to $100 billion. Because our mental and physical health are inextricably linked together, here are five things employers can do to improve workplace wellness:
1. Promote total wellness. Offer a gym membership, fitness class or even a simple exercise space that encourages employees to become physically active, mediate and stay fit. If possible, incentivize employees to use these facilities and services. Encouraging work-life balance will also make for happier, healthier and more productive employees.
2. Ensure they are insured. Until recently, most insurance companies stipulated more restrictions to accessing mental health services than care for a physical illness, despite the fact that in any given year more people will have a mental illness than a physical illness. Cutting dollars for mental health care can increase overall medical costs. Make sure your organization’s health insurance plan includes smoking-cessation, weight-loss and substance abuse programs.
3. Talk about it. Create an environment of openness that allows employees to feel as comfortable talking about their mental health as they would a physical ailment without fear of shame or retribution. Bringing in an expert to discuss mental health and mental illness with your employees is a great way to create this culture.
4. Encourage confidential screenings. Employees who may be struggling with a mental illness often cannot put a finger on exactly what is wrong, leaving them unsure of where to get answers. Further, the stigma associated with mental illness prevents many from asking for help (see tip #3). Mental Health America offers free and confidential online screenings for Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD and Alcohol and Substance Use.
5.Download the toolkit. As part of Mental Health Month every May, Mental Health America creates free toolkits with information in English and Spanish to help organizations promote mental health awareness. The 2015 toolkit is available for download at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may.