MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE — WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Mental health issues in the workplace have received more and more attention in recent years, and statistics indicate the biggest opportunity for improvement lies within the Silver State.
According to annual surveys and reports from the national nonprofit Mental Health America, Nevada annually ranks at the bottom in terms of adults and children having the most cases of mental health issues — such as depression, schizophrenia and others — while also suffering from a large shortage of care providers.
In fact, the nonprofit’s 2017 state rankings put Nevada dead last at 51st (including Washington. D.C.), making it the worst state for people with mental health challenges.
Considering that information, it’s important for Nevada employers to know about warning signs employees with mental health issues might display — and to be aware of steps companies can take to avoid consequences.
Thoran Towler, CEO of the Nevada Association of Employers (NAE), says there are certain times of the year when people get the most depressed, such as the post-holiday season in January and during tax season.
THE MONTH OF JANUARY, AND TAX SEASON
The post-holiday timeframe can be particularly concerning, Towler said.
An employee, for instance, may be alone for the holidays or have an estranged relationship with his/her family. The thought of being alone may bring about mental health issues such as depression or suicidal thoughts.
In other instances, people may be looking forward to the holidays, but the season ultimately doesn’t turn out the way they envisioned, and that could cause additional mental strife.
Blue Monday, usually the third Monday in January (this year it was a week ago on Jan. 15), has been coined the most depressing day of the year and was first publicized by holiday company Sky Travel in 2005.
The date, and the month of January as a whole are considered depressing for a variety of factors, including inclement weather in some parts of the country, increased debt levels from Christmas spending and failing on New Year’s Resolutions.
Another time of year that can cause a lot of employee stress is just around the corner — tax season. Employees may be late on paying — or completely forget or cannot pay — their taxes, which can heighten stress levels.
“Personal peaks” is another term that Towler says could result in employee-related mental health issues.
For instance, an employee may have lost a spouse, or been demoted at work, and he or she may keep a mental note of when those instances occurred.
When those dates roll around in future years, it can be a depressing time for that employee.
Employers also should monitor instances when an employee has experienced stress, Towler said.
“If there are times when an employee has admitted they’ve had (stress) dealing with a customer or a co-worker, that could be a time for concern,” he said in an interview with the NNBW.
In that sense, changes in behavior could be problematic. If an employee is quiet and reserved and suddenly becomes outgoing or boisterous, that is a potential warning sign — the same is true if an employee is cheerful or outgoing and suddenly becomes withdrawn from others.
MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE
In late 2017, Mental Health America released a report called “Mind The Workplace,” which includes findings from a two-year research project to understand more about the impact of mental health concerns in the workplace.
The Workplace Health Survey launched in June 2015 measured the attitudes and perceptions of more than 17,000 employees across 19 industries in the United States.
Among many eye-opening statistics and statements, the report, released in partnership with the Faas Foundation, concludes that disengaged workers can contribute to $450-500 billion a year in losses in productivity.
Below are some of the larger results of the survey:
- 25 percent of respondents felt that they were paid what they deserved.
- 44 percent felt that skilled employees were not given recognition.
Survey respondents also reported high rates of absenteeism (33 percent) and work-family conflict (81 percent), as well as increased mental health and behavioral problems (63 percent).
Among employees with lower levels of engagement, 70 percent stated that they were thinking about and/or actively looking for a new job.
The healthiest industries were Health Care, Financial Services, and Non-Profits; the unhealthiest industries were Manufacturing, Retail, and Food and Beverage.
WAYS TO FOSTER POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH
In their report, the Faas Foundation and MHA indicated regular recognition of employees or keeping them engaged in the company’s values or goals, as a key component to positive workplace mental health.
As such, employees who are engaged in a company’s culture — with opportunities for recognition or advancement — are more likely to reduce stress and be susceptible to some type of mental illness.
Ivy Spadone, chief operations officer and physician assistant with Northern Nevada HOPES — a Reno-based nonprofit community health center that offers, among other services, behavioral health counseling — said HOPES tries to practice what it preaches with its own employees.
“We stress that every employee has three weeks of vacation, and we encourage they all take advantage of that time off,” Spadone told the NNBW.
HOPES also offers perks such as summer picnics, Popcorn Tuesdays or other regular celebrations to relieve stress and promote employee engagement.
Further, NAE’s Towler indicated that opening simple lines of communication is a proactive approach businesses can take to ensure employees’ well-being.
“Those in authority need to interact with employees and talk about the issues they may have,” Towler said. “Supervisors should talk to employees and know when an employee is, say, going to ‘lose it’ mentally, and take action such as tell the employee to take a couple of vacation days to sort things out.”
Towler encouraged employers, if they haven’t already, to adopt an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as part of employee benefit packages.
An EAP can provide resources to help employees and their families deal with a multitude of personal issues that can affect productivity in the workplace, such as financial concerns, emotional or marital issues, or substance abuse, among others.
An employee can utilize an EPA confidentially and usually at no cost to the employer. There are a variety of plans available for employers to choose from. Visit hr.nv.gov/StateEmployees/EAP_FAQ_s to learn more.
Source: Northern Nevada Business Weekly
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