In today’s increasingly busy society your employee’s mental health should be a high priority.  Studies have shown that one out of four employees will experience some form of mental health issues throughout the year, with the most common mental health issues being stress or stress related.  As May was a Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss ways to combat mental health issues in the workplace and in turn create a more productive and efficient small business.

California mental health Issues

While not a largely talked about topic mental health is a big issue in the workplace.  A recent study done by the Center for Prevention and Health Services estimated that mental health issues in the workplace cost employers in excess of $75 billion yearly. This number is shocking but if you think about the various ways a business is affected by employees suffering from mental health issues it is very understandable.

Employees experiencing mental health issues are less productive and may be a drain on the workplace culture making other employees less productive as well.  Secondly, employees dealing with mental health issues may require significant time off and increase costs with the need to find outsourced labor.  Further, employees with long standing mental health issues can lead to an increase in healthcare expenses.

Stress in the Workplace

While stress is technically not a diagnosable mental condition, it can lead to a number of other larger mental and physical issues such as depression or anxiety which can lead to lengthy disability claims and long term workplace absences. As an employer you have an ethical responsibility to support your employees and provide a safe workplace.

De-stressing the Workplace

Small businesses should always be on the lookout for ways to increase productivity and one such way is by reducing mental health issues amongst your staff.  As an employer you can significantly decrease the likelihood of having employees with mental health issues by promoting a healthy workplace.  Here are a number of ways to do that:

  • Training managers and supervisors on ways to detect when employees are experiencing mental health issues.
  • Providing an open business environment where employees feel comfortable coming to management with their concerns.
  • Providing employees with access to programs that help reduce stress and assist with ongoing mental health issues.
  • Including your employees in some decision making processes.
  • Creating a healthy work environment where employees have access to breaks, time off, and other various benefits, such as access to a designated rest area.

Legalities of Stress in the Workplace

California Labor Code details the statutory requirements for mental health related workers compensation claims.  In particular it indicates that in order for a mental health injury to be a valid claim it must be a formally diagnosed mental health disorder that is predominantly or at least 51% caused by the employee’s job or work environment.

Workers compensation claims aside, promoting good mental health in the workplace can not only reduce the likelihood of employees suffering from mental health issues it can lead to increased productivity, happy and healthy employees and an increase in the longevity of staff.

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