May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we are exploring the topic of mental health and wellness at the company level. Of the past year, this is a topic that is been front and center in the media because of (1) the toll the pandemic has had on our collective mental health and (2) the work high profile athletes and entertainers have done to destigmatize issues related to mental health.
Across the globe, employees are feeling the weight of the last two years on their mental health. Pandemic burnout, social isolation, political uncertainty, and climate change crises continue to compound damage to worker mental health. Additionally, with remote work here to stay, many are seeing a disruption in work-life balance as boundaries are blurred between work and home life demands. So, what do employers and talent teams need to understand about mental health and wellness?
Source: World Health Organization, COVID-19 Pandemic Triggers 25% Increase in Prevalence Of Anxiety and Depression Worldwide, March 2022
Supporting mental health and wellness isn’t just about employee wellbeing, it’s about inclusion.
It’s important for organizations to understand that mental health across demographic groups is an emerging category within Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I). Leaders must respond by incorporating a culture of empathy around mental health into their talent infrastructure.
Lawmakers are wrestling with how to ensure that mental health and physical health are treated equally by employers and insurers. Leaders need to ensure hiring managers and recruitment teams are well-versed on the distinction between legal and illegal interview questions as they relate to a candidate’s mental health. For example, The Americans with Disabilities Act defines clear protections for applicants: employers cannot ask a candidate about their history of mental illness, but they can ask if there is anything that might prevent the candidate from doing the job. Additionally, recruiters should be prepped on how to appropriately respond if a candidate has volunteered information about their mental health.
Candidates and employees care about mental health and wellness.
In a climate of high employee turnover, top candidates are increasingly turning toward companies that are committed to addressing workforce mental health and wellness. Employers can make the hiring process more inclusive by featuring their wellness efforts as a fundamental part of their employer brand. Start by communicating available wellness benefits and resources throughout the recruitment lifecycle—be it through your careers page, job postings, social media profiles, or a verbal introduction to the organization. Additionally, recruiters should be instructed to promote these wellness offerings as they connect with candidates. They should also be prepared to speak to how to the organization supports employees who face burnout and other mental health issues. Lastly, give your recruitment team the opportunity to model a healthy work-life balance and boundary setting as norms for your organization by having them highlight relevant policies such as generous time-off or flexible work arrangements.
Supporting mental health and wellness increases productivity.
It’s not surprising that how employees feel affects their work and productivity levels. The Center for Workplace Mental Health reports that while 6-7 percent of employees experience depression, only about half seek treatment. According to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, depression is also a leading cause of presenteeism. (Presenteeism is the lost productivity when employees show up for work but cannot perform mentally or creatively.)
Source: World Health Organization, Mental Health in the Workplace
The World Health Organization reports that the global economy loses 1 trillion per year in productivity due to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, every US dollar invested into treatment and prevention for mental health issues sees a return of $4.
Source: Deloitte Insights, The ROI in workplace mental health programs: Good for people, good for business, 2019
Ultimately, ignoring the mental health of your employees will not only cost you in production, but will also erode your culture and effect your ability to attract future talent.
HR and talent teams must lead the way.
The past two years have shined a spotlight on the need for mental health and wellness support across all business functions—and talent management is no exception. As jobseekers around the world grapple with their commitment to work, the lasting effects of recent world events, and their lives outside the office, they are increasingly demanding to know how companies can support their mental health needs. Talent leaders need to be mindful of these expectations as they reinforce inclusive hiring practices. Finding ways to decrease stigma, making concerted efforts to put candidates at ease, and improving perceptions around mental health need to become common practices in the talent acquisition process.