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Connecting Employee Engagement and Mental Health at the Workplace

Employee engagement continues to be an important workforce management initiative that remains top of mind for organizations. In fact, increasing employee engagement was identified as the number one workforce management priority among Health and Human Services executives in our 2019 State of Workforce Management Report.

From a business standpoint, it makes sense to invest in employee engagement. Low engagement is bad for workplace morale, not to mention it’s associated with lower productivity levels among employees and higher turnover rates for the organization as a whole. There are countless articles exploring these trends, identifying challenges, and suggesting strategies for improving employee engagement. But an often-overlooked consideration is the connection to workplace mental health. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s time to discuss mental health in the workplace.

The Stats on Workplace Mental Health

We spend a great portion of our lives at work, so it’s not surprising that our work environment can have a significant impact on our mental health and wellbeing. And studies show that the impact is largely negative. Ginger, a provider of on-demand behavioral health, recently released its 2019 Workforce Attitudes Towards Behavioral Health Report, which indicated that 83% of workers regularly experienced stress.  

Workplace stress is associated with higher rates of absenteeism, drops in productivity, and low employee engagement and morale. And workers are aware of this as well. In the Workforce Attitudes report, 81% of workers said that stress negatively affects their work, and increases symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and physical ailments. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the global economy loses upwards of $1 trillion annually in lost or low productivity caused by depression and anxiety in the workplace. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on improving employee mental health, to help care for employees as individuals as well as from a business standpoint.

How Employers Can Champion Mental Health

While a stressful work environment can be detrimental to employee mental health, there are steps organizations can take to create a healthy workplace. And workers are placing a lot of importance in this area. Not only did 91% of respondents in the Ginger survey say that they believe their employer should be concerned about their emotional wellbeing, but 85% said that behavioral health services are important when considering a new job.

Mental Health America (MHA) collected more than 17,000 responses in their Workplace Health Survey, which provides some insights into what organizations can do to improve their work environments. Key findings from their report include that:

  • Employees value staff recognition and praise – more than compensation.
  • Non-financial workplace perks can greatly improve employee engagement and job satisfaction. These perks include offering flexible scheduling, open and relaxed work environments, and professional development opportunities.
  • Meaningful work is closely linked to better wellbeing.

Not all of these options will work for all organizations, but they can provide a starting point for those looking to create a healthy workplace environment and improve the mental health of their employees. Getting the conversation started about mental health and employee wellbeing is the first step. And making mental health a priority for your entire workforce can go a long way in improving the physical and mental health of employees, job satisfaction levels, employee engagement, and even the productivity and outcomes for your organization.

Written by Kristen McPherson

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