Supporting Behavioral Health for Optimal Employee Performance
By Dan Jolivet, PhD
Workplace Possibilities Practice Consultant
The U.S. has been in the grips of a behavioral health crisis for the last 20 years—an issue that is garnering new levels of awareness among employers, who acknowledge its importance for the overall health and wellness of team members as well as its influence on disability. Since the onset of COVID-19, half of American workers reported difficulties with mental health and substance use, and we saw the following results:
- Associated business costs jumped to an estimated 13% of payroll compared with 5% in 2019.1
- The percentage of Americans reporting anxiety and/or depression tripled.2
- Overdose rates increased by almost 30%.3
If those statistics aren’t enough to get attention from business leaders, the Great Resignation might. At least half the U.S. workforce is job hunting or looking for new opportunities, which marks an increase in the number of workers who are not engaged.4
While these statistics are overwhelming, there is positive news. Behavioral health conditions are treatable, most people recover, and employers can help. Companies that support employees’ emotional wellness create a culture of caring that resonates with team members and results in a positive return on investment (ROI).
Employers play a major role in American healthcare by providing benefits including health insurance and pharmacy benefits for almost half the population. And while 79% of companies offered employee assistance programs (EAPs) as of 2019,5 almost half of workers say they don’t get the emotional support they need from employers, which can influence tenure. What more can companies do?
Consider these interconnected, emerging themes to create a culture that drives employee engagement and well-being, and can control costs:
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) focuses on treating employees with respect and dignity across intersecting identities related to age, culture, disabilities, gender, race, sexual orientation, and other factors.
- Psychological safety is a team-wide feeling of belonging and a belief that others won’t punish or humiliate a team member for making a mistake or speaking up.
- Civility in the workplace reflects a culture in which positive gestures of courtesy and kindness are expected.
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