Elevation

Mental Wellness in Business: YES, IT MATTERS

- By Janine Shamos

We are living in tough times: financial strain, employment, health and safety uncertaint­y. It’s not really surprising that we’re feeling less that’s OK.

Do you know Wally? Wally seems to be constantly lethargic and lowspirite­d. He seems to have lost all interest in activities he used to care

Photo by Alex on Unsplash

about. He’s reactive and ‘touchy’ and it seems like every little thing irritates him. He’s snippy, makes bad decisions, and says and does things he regrets. Wally isn’t taking the initiative for anything these days and blames everyone and everything when things go wrong.

We all know Wally… He’s the face we see in the mirror, the sister and brother, colleague and business owner. According to the World Health Organizati­on (WHO), depression is the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide. At least 9% of South Africans have a lifetime prevalence of depression so Wally is certainly not alone.

Mental health affects how you think, feel and behave. When you don’t feel your best, you certainly don’t do your best. When your mental health and wellbeing slips, so does your energy. Your self-esteem takes a hit. You doubt yourself and ask yourself questions like “Was that the right decision?”, “Can I really do this?”, “Am I good enough?”. You feel just like Wally – worthless, useless, hopeless and despondent. And Wally is not good for you, or your business.

Besides basic human empathy, focusing on mental health in the workplace is critical to business bottom-line. Mental health problems negatively affect employee performanc­e and productivi­ty, amounts of illness and the cost of sick leave, absenteeis­m and presenteei­sm, as well as staff morale and rates of turnover. The impact of the pandemic is felt by all businesses, big and small. I urge business owners (from a Corporate

According to the World Health Organizati­on (WHO), depression is the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide. At least 9% of South Africans have a lifetime prevalence of depression so Wally is certainly not alone.

CEO to a small business vendor and entreprene­ur) to visit www.businessfo­rsa.org, www.sadag.org, www.return2wor­k.co.za, or WhatsApp 087 250 2674.

The two biggest challenges that businesses face are:

Absenteeis­m: Untreated, depressed employees take 26 additional absences per year compared with employees who do not suffer from depression or have treated depression. Absenteeis­m due to mental ill-health accounts for an estimated 7% of the global payroll, exceeding other disorders.

Presenteei­sm: Impaired work performanc­e or loss of productivi­ty cause up to 4 times more than absenteeis­m.

The World Health Organizati­on found that every dollar spent on mental health shows a four-dollar improvemen­t in health and productivi­ty for employees and businesses. A study by the Oxford University and the University of Surrey found that R16 spent on mental health promotion strategies can save around R800. There are definitely business incentives to meaningful­ly addressing mental health.

The pandemic has brought mental health care into focus. Here are some tips for employers:

1. Survey employees about mental health: It’s great to want to assist your employees and staff but you need to know what is causing them discomfort and stress. This will help you implement useful strategies and programs.

2. Reduce strain practicall­y: Once you’ve

evaluated the main stressors your staff face, make mental health a priority. Be practical - if ‘nonpandemi­c’ hours or having to commute impedes performanc­e and productivi­ty, address them, implement flexible hours, allow people to work from home.

3. Watch work hours: We are used to working long hours or ‘burning the midnight oil. In the long-term this causes burnout. In addition, it’s been shown that people work longer hours when working from home. We all need to rest, recharge and connect with loved ones, especially now.

4. Talk about mental health: Create an environmen­t and culture of understand­ing and show employees that you take mental health seriously. Talks, workshops, newsletter­s all send a positive message.

5. Recognize and Act: Not everyone knows they have a mental health problem. Many of us think anxiety and feeling down is just a part of life. Teach all staff how to recognize warning signs and how to intervene.

6. Counseling and Care: If you don’t already offer an Employee Assistance Program, either implement an EAP that provides access to qualified mental health therapists and a variety of services or outsource it to experts like SADAG.

7. Use social media and online resources: Compile a list of resources like webinars, online support groups, helpline services, Facebook groups etc. that provide telesuppor­t. Telemedici­ne can enable more people to seek profession­al help at much lower cost.

Focusing on mental health in the workplace is critical. Poor mental health negatively impacts employee job performanc­e, engagement and communicat­ion with coworkers and it seriously affects the bottom-line. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress are real and treatable illnesses. Mental health and wellness is a business issue. Mental wellness in business does matter.

So when you find Wally, let him know he’s not alone, and that it really is OK not to be OK.

Focusing on mental health in the workplace is critical. Poor mental health negatively impacts employee job performanc­e, engagement and communicat­ion with coworkers and it seriously affects the bottom-line.

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