The audit firm Deloitte conducted a 2021 Employee Mental Health Survey* in England involving 40,000 employees from 114 companies and focused on changes in mental health related to the pandemic.
As a result of the study, it appeared that the costs related to absence from work or leaving work due to mental health problems increased by 25% in the 2020-2021 group compared to 2019.
65% of the workers surveyed said their mental well-being worsened due to the pandemic, and 26% said it was the first time they felt such worries. At the same time, young people in the 18-29 age group felt the most significant changes.
The study came to an eye-opening conclusion – every £1 invested by a company in solving mental health problems brings a return of £5.3 (ROI) to the company, and every £1 invested in prevention activities as much as £10.8. More than a tenfold return!
Employees expect more support from the employer than before. 52% of the respondents did not feel that the employer supports mental health, and one-third expressed higher expectations regarding the support provided.
The situation is not better in Estonia
A few months ago, we added mental health to the areas of working life monitored at Moticheck. Based on our customers’ feedback, we must admit that mental health issues are at least as relevant in Estonia as in England.
The average % of positive responses (perceived well-being) for all companies using Moticheck in July 2022 was 82. The area with the lowest rating (compensation) has lost the lead to mental health (65%). The problem is acute and needs managers´ attention. Let’s recognize that employees want a more mentally healthy and supportive workplace than a salary increase!
Dealing with mental health in the company starts with shaping the environment and atmosphere and extends to mental health restoration activities. Toxic relationships and a non-supportive climate at the workplace evoke stress and mental health problems.
Stress and tension are also caused by changes and events outside the organization and under our control. This year, the war in Ukraine has significantly increased fears and coping anxieties. The loss of security and the possibility to lose the job due to the disappearance of the company’s raw materials or sales markets add fuel to the fire.
What can every manager do?
In the big picture, the focus of mental health could be on three subjects.
- Relations and atmosphere in the company. The lack of a fair and uniform attitude and toxic communication cause stress and anxiety in employees. The response should be immediate to ensure an open and supportive work culture.
- Managing expectations in the context of financial results. Unrealistically high expectations do not motivate the team but create stress. Changes in the economic environment are affecting results, either caused by the pandemic or war. It’s not about giving up on the ambition but adjusting to realistic expectations.
- Irritants from the external environment, such as the pandemic or the war situation, are not under our control, but they inevitably affect the peace of mind and relationships in the work environment. As leaders, we can help normalize some topics, raise awareness, adjust internal rules and offer support for most of them.
For my part, I recommend that all managers start mapping the well-being of the teams and take mental health issues under monitoring. Signals must be responded to immediately. Prevention is always cheaper than treatment, but solving a small problem is also easier than solving a significant crisis.
Companies, where voluntary health insurance does not yet cover mental health costs, could consider adding it. The services of medical partners could be readily available and, if possible, compensated. And, of course, the awareness to notice anxiety and the knowledge to help yourself first. Businesses can do a lot in terms of awareness and understanding. Training a team of internal coaches and mental health ambassadors is one possible solution practiced in many companies.
Mental health prevention has not been part of the primary activities of working life development in the past. We must reconsider old definitions, include empathy and start to follow up on the wellness of the workforce. The guaranteed 5 to 10-fold profitability will hopefully help approve the related expenses.
Peace of mind to us all!
Pille Parind-Nisula, August 2022
*Mental Health and Employers. Deloitte. March 2022. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/consultancy/deloitte-uk-mental-health-report-2022.pdf?fbclid=IwAR24GDKH9_jBXzGpDWOBPV6Y9r4vksCzddiWG4hVXU6s4elw-4MhzyZd0KY