Currently, almost all approaches to mental health at work are reactive, we only start to deal with or talk about mental health when people feel ill. That approach is not sustainable. And that is proven over and over again. Let us look at the data.
The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health report entitled ‘Mental health at work: developing the business case’ 2016/17, suggested that the overall cost to British employers of stress, anxiety and depression amounted to £1,300 per employee per year, reflecting a significant 25.6 percent rise compared to the exact same study carried out ten year prior. Absenteeism increased 17.9 percent and presenteeism 30.5 percent compared to their 2006/07 report. The over all cost of mental health problems for the UK economy was £34.9 billion, a 34.7 percent increase from £25.9 billion in 2006.
In 2017, Deloitte UK published research that explored the benefits to employers of helping employees with their mental health in the workplace. Now, in January 2020 Deloitte has updated its initial report to look again at the overall costs of poor mental health to UK employers. What they found was a cost increase of 16 percent to employers, now costing up to £45 billion (up from £37 billion in 2016) annually.
The trend is clear, mental health costs keep rising and we keep reacting to those numbers. Why is it so?
NEED FOR A PROACTIVE APPROACH
A proactive approach to mental wellness has largely been missing. In 2018, psychiatrist and founder of world’s first fully digital mental wellness gym Wellness Orbit, Dr. Helena Lass, brought forward a compelling argument for an innovative proactive approach to mental wellness in her Routledge published scientific paper, ‘Developing Intra-Personal Skills as a Proactive Way to Personal Sustainability — The Preventative Side of the Mental Health Equation’.
She puts forward the hypothesis that early proactive intervention in the form of structured inner education increases quality of life and decreases the chances of stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression all of which have become epidemic in their proportions, and can have severe consequences on an individual’s quality of life and their mental health. She saw that this new approach could be used in all workplaces and also did not stop with scientific paper but developed practical mental wellness training programs for teams. You are welcome to try one yourself here.
Due to mental wellness skills not being taught in schools, most of us lack a proper understanding of how our inner domain is built. Because we have such a vague idea of why mental wellness is so important and what we can do ourselves to sustain good mental health, it’s understandable that people tend to look for short-term fixes like articles with quick fix ‘tips’ and shortcuts. Most of us who work with people know well — habits don’t change overnight. This statement is equally valid in terms of physical and mental wellness. That is why quick fix ‘tips’ fail.
The main issue of mental wellness is that it falls into no man’s land. It doesn’t fall under the responsibility of health care systems and educational institutions, nor is it taught in workplaces as a useful skill for increasing productivity. And even spas/wellness retreats we mostly lack practical and applicable mental wellness solutions, that is besides meditation opportunities and yoga. Those are both good approaches, but you cannot sit in the office with your eyes closed. You need a more practical approach that enables you to work well.
MENTAL WELLNESS IS AN INVESTMENT
It is very often the case that companies, organisations and business owners themselves bare the brunt in terms of the costs relating to work-related mental health problems.
Work stress, burnout, depression, and anxiety, all have major impacts on businesses. The direct and indirect consequences come in the form of presenteeism and absenteeism and result in employee sick leave and unfinished work-related tasks left undone at critical moments.
Health Affairs, “Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings”, 2010 found that companies that have an employee wellness program see positive returns. Their report also found that for every dollar spent on employee wellness, medical costs fell by $3.27 and absenteeism dropped by $2.73 per employee, representing a six-to-one return on the company’s initial investment.
Similarly, Hamberg-van Reenen et al. 2012, found that over the course of two years returns per employee were US$257, and saw a significant ROI of 302%, equating to a return of US$ 4.02 for every dollar invested.
A study conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers Australia in 2014 found that through the successful implementation of an effective action to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations, on average, could expect a positive ROI of 2.3. All this already made an overwhelming case for investing in mental wellness.
Now, in January 2020 Deloitte UK has come up with even better numbers in their report “Mental health and employers. Refreshing the case for investment” and found that on average, ROI into mental health at work showed £5 gain for every £1 spent, up from the £4 to £1 return identified back in 2017.
Deloitte pointed out that the best ROI is found in proactive training that can secure excellent mental wellness for all of your employees by changing the existing workplace culture towards a more sustainable and well-being focused culture.
So, what is evident is that only when people proactively learn how to stay mentally well can they realise how their inner domain functions. The proactive mental wellness approach can secure a more sustainable way of handling and preventing burnout and work-related mental health problems, just as Dr. Lass states in her scientific paper. Prevention focused intrapersonal education can easily translate to healthier, happier and more productive employees. It is needless to say this will, in turn, leads to more satisfied clients.
When mental wellness is considered in a proactive approach, we can liken it to going to a gym. It is proactive approach for all employees who need a well functioning mind for their work.
However, going to the gym or taking up any physical activity for our physical fitness best helps us before serious illness takes hold. The same applies in case of mental fitness, people need to learn how to stay well so that they can avoid being ill. Learning intrapersonal skills (‘intra’ meaning inside) in a digital mental wellness gym can make you feel refreshed, personally sustainable and internally motivated (see the benefits on the image above). Instead of their physical body being trained, people train their knowledge-tools and practice directing their inner functions.
By learning, training and directing intrapersonal skills, a vast amount of inner potential will open up that can ultimately advance human capacity. Intrapersonal skills allow us to regulate our inner functions, prevent stress and serious mental health problems, leading us towards higher productivity, less time off, and better mental wellness.
Dr. Lass’s scientific article shifts the focus from the external reactive problem solving in the mental health arena towards a more proactive education on mental wellness, whereby people who are still well already know how to prevent further escalation of negative states into illness. If we are mentally well, then we live well and work well.