Mental health issues are often stigmatized in our society. Physical health ailments are viewed as real, while the legitimacy of mental health problems is often questioned. Yet with the pervasiveness of mental health issues in this country, that shouldn’t be the case.
The workplace can be a source of mental health issues – including stress, anxiety and burnout. How employers support the mental health of their employees can make the difference between a happy, productive workforce and an overwhelmed, ineffective one. Caring for workers’ wellbeing is especially critical during the current pandemic – which has led to severe social isolation and economic disruption.
Workplace mental health study
In March of this year. Maestro Health conducted a study of more than 2,000 American workers. They surveyed workers from every state in the country, and from a variety of industries. The aim was to uncover the work-related factors that negatively impacted their mental health.
The findings show that 51% of respondents experience work-related stress on a weekly basis. The same percentage of respondents are also uncomfortable talking to their manager about mental health. Interestingly, the majority of respondents who were comfortable discussing such issues had a manager who was relatively young (in their 20s or 30s).
In addition, over half of workers surveyed have never received information from their employer about mental health. This could lead to the impression that the employer does not consider mental health a real issue, or that the employer does not provide any resources or health benefits to those with mental health concerns.
Perception that stress doesn’t warrant rest
When there is a perception in the workplace that being stressed isn’t a good enough reason to take time off, it can lead to employees working themselves into the ground and creating more serious mental health conditions. The top reasons that workers said they would not take time off because of stress were:
- They needed the income
- Time off was too precious to use for mental health reasons
- They had too much work to do
- Taking a mental health day would make them feel guilty or weak
- Their boss wouldn’t accept mental health as a valid reason to take time off
Why employers should care
Stress alone is not an illness. However, left unchecked, long-term stress can have serious consequences on both mental and physical wellbeing. People who do not take necessary rest when they are stressed are at higher risk of developing immune, digestive, heart and sleep problems. Long-term stress is not only bad for employee morale, it also prevents employees from being able to perform their best at work.
During the current pandemic, workers are under more daily stress than ever before. They need employers who are understanding and caring about this. Any steps employers can take to lessen job stress are helpful – such as offering flexible hours, remote working and paid time off, and providing health insurance benefits that cover mental health. Increased communication and education by employers about mental health issues and resources are also a must.