As mental health awareness shifts more and more into the public consciousness, CEOs, HR Reps, Owners, and even entrepreneurs starting businesses are beginning to question when and how they should take mental health and mental wellness into account in their companies.
The answer for most is: yesterday.
The mental health of both employees and leadership should be a top priority for any owner and executive on the same level as cash flow, profit margins, customer retention, and marketing.
I’ve had conversations with executives in my local area and around the country, and they attribute this awareness to an increase in sensitivity in the Millennial and Gen Z generations.
However, as evidenced by all the writing here, here and here, mental health is something that should have been a priority decades ago and affects every member of your workforce, not just those under 35.
When Executives and Owners fail to prioritize the mental health of their employees there are a host of negative consequences including: interoffice fighting, employee burnout, loss of productivity, loneliness, and an overall toxic culture leading to a mass exodus on a regular basis (think the typical call center with high turnover).
When executives make mental health a priority, there is a wide array of positive consequences that include: increased retention, better quality products and services, increased employee motivation and focus, higher employee passion, and an overall workforce that contributes to the local economy in a big way.
While entire academic articles can and have been written on each of these consequences, I’m only going to focus on what I consider the most impactful and quickly recognizable consequences of prioritizing or failing to prioritize mental health.
I argue, that the number one negative consequence of failing to prioritize mental health in the workplace is employee burnout. As Jason Schreier details here, it can cost the best companies thousands of man-hours, hundreds of millions of dollars, and lead to the collapse of long term projects and legacies.
Employee burnout is often a result of long hours, consistently tight deadlines, lack of vacations and time off, low pay leading to financial distress, and a poor company culture that shames anyone who takes time away.
These factors combine with company insurance plans that do not provide adequate mental health coverage (or even mental health coverage at all), no built-in time for de-stressing and disconnection from work, and ever-improving technology that causes work to follow even low-level employees on their phones 24/7.
Factors that all together lead to an increase in depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and an increase in suicidal thoughts and self-harm behaviors, from your newest and lowest level employees to even your most senior executives.
As has been documented elsewhere, and in personal experience, this leads to long leaves of absence, sick time being used to just rest, walkouts and no shows, and more.
When your employees are overly stressed, they lose the ability to focus on the tasks in front of them. This leads to deadline delays, decreased overall productivity, and a self-induced need for executives to micromanage, which in itself leads to an increase in employee stress and burnout. Avoiding employee burnout alone should be enough for any executive and owner to prioritize mental health, but you also avoid the other negatives of interoffice fighting, loss of productivity, and loneliness.
On the flip side, there is a significant positive benefit to a company when they prioritize mental health for every employee, employee commitment and passion.
When companies prioritize their employee’s mental health, the employees take notice. They are happier, more focused, more productive, and they are more likely to recognize and buy into a company’s mission and goals.
Those employees will know that they are valued, and in turn, will value the company back. They are not afraid to take care of themselves and their needs, so they are more likely to take care of the company’s needs. They spend more time at work, actually working, rather than thinking about how they would rather be somewhere else. This leads to higher company morale and a culture that breeds inclusion, openness, and respect.
These two benefits combined, a lack of burnout, an increase in employee passion and commitment will lead to a more productive company, higher earnings, increased employee retention, and a more positive work environment.
When your executives, friends, or fellow business owners ask why they should spend time and money prioritizing mental health, explain to them why they can’t afford not to.
Caleb is a Storyteller, Marketing Expert, Business Owner, Husband, and Streamer. He has a B.A in English and Creative Writing from Augustana University in South Dakota, has successfully graduated from DBT Skills group and has become a Twitch Affiliate. After being diagnosed with genetic cancer at age 10 he ventured down a path of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a myriad of surgeries, that culminated in brain surgery and full mental breakdown in September of 2015. This led to his journey in self-discovery, DBT, solidifying his love for his wife, and growing into a better man and husband than he thought was possible.