I am working on a section in my book about what employers of choice are doing to support mental health in the workplace, and the ROI and other benefits of doing this. I am surprised by much of what I am finding, so I thought I would share it with you here.
In my work as a career transition coach, I find that some clients are saying they never want to go back to an office, while others are saying they don’t like remote work and want to target jobs where they can go to an office and interact with people.
Even if you’re looking forward to going back to the office, you also may feel some anxiety about that. In the “Supporting mental health when returning to the workplace” episode of a podcast by Mercer, a leading American asset management firm, there were several points I found interesting. The conversation was between Norman Dreger, Partner and Mercer Germany CEO, and Dr. Wolfgang Seidl Mercer Partner and Workplace Health Consulting leader located in London.
Dr. Seidl didn’t skirt around the fact that organizations need to acknowledge and manage the anxiety people may experience as they return to the office. He said, “Mental health and well-being support is a key principle of a good return to work. We need to get used to not just returning, but creating a good return to work. It’s also key for employers to ensure that workers know how and with whom to raise their concerns because they will be anxious. People had anxiety issues or depression at the best of times, but they get exacerbated during such a crisis.”
It is important to remember that anxiety and depression were skyrocketing in the general population pre-pandemic. The stress of the pandemic has only made things worse.
I have frequently counseled extroverts that too much remote work is a recipe for depression and stress for them. Natural introverts (like me!) are overjoyed as opportunities for remote work increase, but we need to ensure how we work works for everyone. One size never does fit all.
Dr. Seidl raised an excellent point about not letting the pendulum swing too far the other way saying, “We have to be quite careful here that while we are praising the advantages of flexible working for work life balance, which is true for a huge number of employees, we also have to be careful now not to go to the other extreme. To say, for instance, everyone should be home-based or office space should only be for meetings and collaboration and make it all sound very modern and fun. Because there are some of our colleagues, again on the mental health spectrum, like people with neuro diversity or autistic conditions, that need a predictable space and a controllable environment.”
I had not considered this at all.
But the statistic that knocked me sideways as a cost justification for organizations supporting mental health in the workplace, something I am a huge proponent of, was the saving of nearly 11 days per employee. Dr. Seidl shared, “In the UK we investigated the productivity question as part of our Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey that we deliver together with Vitality Health. We were looking at organizations that prioritize employee health and well-being vis-à-vis the average organization. Those who come out tops, in terms of employee health and well-being, save nearly 11 days of productivity per employee. So that’s 11 days for every single employee per annum in comparison to those who just have average programs.”
Whatever the extra cost of providing above average programs to support mental health, and I do realize there is a cost, seems like it would be more than offset by more than two extra weeks of productive work per employee.
And I will posit that the investment would help with employee retention as well, which would generate even more returns. Employee turnover is disruptive and expensive.
Investing in your employees’ mental health seems like a huge win-win to me.