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Prioritizing Workplace Mental Health Imperative for Success

By Diego Olcese - Crehana


Diego Olcese By Diego Olcese | CEO - Tue, 10/10/2023 - 12:00

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If one thing is clear to everyone today, it is that productivity and performance are valued more than ever, which is why the mental health and well-being of employees in the workplace has emerged as a crucial issue on the business agenda. The notion that a burned out and stressed out employee is a productive employee has been debunked by current industry data and research.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. It affects more than 300 million people, of whom 121 million are women. Anxiety is another common mental health problem, affecting more than 400 million people worldwide.

As a member of Crehana, a company that seeks to achieve a more optimal future of work, I consider it vital to approach this issue from a perspective that promotes effective management of mental health in the workplace, not only as an ethical issue, but also as a driver of sustainable business success.

The tangible costs of a lack of focus on mental health in the workplace are staggeringly high. According to a study by the WHO and the International Labor Organization (ILO), disorders related to work stress and lack of psychosocial support have an estimated economic cost of around 3-4% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This translates into a staggering trillions of dollars annually in direct and indirect costs, including healthcare, absenteeism, and decreased productivity.

When we encounter poor work environments that, for example, accept discrimination and inequality, excessive workloads, insufficient job control and job insecurity, they represent a risk to mental health.

Today, many companies have taken bold steps to prioritize the mental health of their employees. Some clear examples are Google, which offers mindfulness programs and has internal "Googlers" trained in emotional support; or Microsoft, which implemented mandatory rest policies that led to greater productivity and creativity among its employees.

Another interesting case is Accenture, the global professional services company. It created a program called "Mental Health Ally" that aims to raise awareness about mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. The program also offers training for employees so they can identify and support their colleagues who may be dealing with mental health issues.

It could be said that organizations that prioritize mental health and well-being in their policies and practices are reaping significant benefits. A study conducted by the University of Warwick found that happy and healthy employees are 12% more productive than their less-satisfied counterparts. In addition, employee retention rates are higher at companies that implement mental health and wellness programs, saving valuable resources on finding and training new talent.

Some ideas that come to mind for successful mental health management in the workplace are:

Having a culture of openness and communication: Fostering an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their mental health concerns and challenges is critical. Open communication destigmatizes these issues and allows them to be addressed before they become crises.

Work flexibility: Offering flexible work options, such as alternative hours or working from home, can help reduce stress and improve work-life balance.

Comprehensive wellness programs: Implementing programs that promote physical activity, healthy nutrition, and the regular practice of mindfulness can significantly contribute to improving the overall well-being of employees.

Training and education: Offering mental health and stress management training for employees and leaders can help create a more understanding and supportive environment.

In addition to all this, leadership plays a fundamental role in achieving this culture of well-being. Leaders need to be role models by showing their own care and respect for mental well-being; they must be empathetic and understanding when addressing the needs of people, providing the necessary support to face challenges.

It is satisfying to see how leaders of large companies are speaking openly about the subject, among them Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. He has opened up publicly about his own experience with mental health and has emphasized the importance of creating a company culture that supports the mental health of employees. Also Jeff Weiner, former CEO of LinkedIn, has spoken about the importance of meditation and mindfulness in the workplace. Weiner has said that meditation has helped him better manage stress and make more informed decisions.

There is also the case of Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, who has spoken about the importance of sleep in the workplace and how it can affect the mental health of employees. Huffington has created an initiative called "The Sleep Revolution" that aims to raise awareness about the importance of sleep for mental and physical health.

Managing mental health and well-being in workplaces is not just an act of benevolence, but an essential strategy for sustainable business success. Ignoring this aspect can be costly both in economic terms and in the quality of life of employees. By prioritizing mental health, companies can create an environment that fosters productivity, creativity, and talent retention, which in turn will contribute to long-term growth and prosperity.

Photo by:   Diego Olcese

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