Why Should We Invest in Mental Health?

invest in workplace mental health

Businesses may ask why they should invest in mental health? The simple answer is that the costs to employers of poor mental health in the workplace are substantial. In Australia, PwC reports that absenteeism costs $4.7B, presenteeism costs $6.1B and compensation claims for mental illness cost $146 M every year.

Mental illness is on the rise and it’s no surprise with the roller coaster ride over the past few years. After three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now seeing a lack of staff with many organisations looking for talent. People are working harder and longer.

There is plenty of research on presenteeism and absenteeism and the direct costs to businesses. But recently coming out of the UK, research has identified a new term ‘leaveism’. For this article, we investigate the impact that leaveism and being “on” 24/7 have on employee mental health, and we discuss the reasons why businesses should invest in mental health programs.

What is Leaveism?

Absenteeism, presenteeism and leaveism are employee responses to feeling mentally unwell or being overloaded. Leaveism is a new term that describes the growing tendency of employees to be unable to ‘switch off’ from work.

Flexible working, using technology and working remotely is encouraging employees to overwork and make themselves available 24/7. Leaveism is creating a reduction in workforce morale, and leading to increases in burnout.

Leaveism occurs when employees:

  • Use their time off to work when they are mentally exhausted or unwell. For example, they use their annual leave entitlements, flexi‑hours, and re‑rostered rest days to recover from being sick.
  • Take work home that they fail to complete in regular working hours.
  • Work while on leave or holiday, to catch up on their work obligations.

According to UK research leaveism is more common in organisations that also experience high levels of presenteeism. This year Deloitte UK, published the Mental health and employers
Refreshing the case for investment  Report and found that:

  • 70% of respondents who observe ‘presenteeism’ in their organisations also see leaveism, and
  • 40% of those who did not observe ‘presenteeism’ did note leaveism.

Their graph shows that leaveism is alive and well. The study shows that 27% of employees who admit to using their leave to complete work; 36% continue to work from home when they are unwell while using their sick leave entitlements and 51% of employees take work home to complete outside of work hours. We are working harder and longer and these practices are affecting employee’s mental health.

Leaveism Statistics
Reported Leaveism 2019, ref: Deloitte UK 2020

See our article, Depression Symptoms Rise When You Work Long Hours.

How Does Leaveism Affect Employee’s Mental Health?

While there are significant benefits from the extensive use of technology in the workplace, an increasingly ‘always on’ culture can have a detrimental effect on employees’ mental wellbeing.

A study sponsored by Myers‑Briggs found that employees who are ‘always on’ are more likely to be more engaged at work. However, they are also more likely to experience stress or mental exhaustion.

In this study, 28% say that they find it difficult to switch off mentally from their jobs because of increased connectivity. The unlimited access to the constant stream of work emails and connectivity using their smartphones means we can reach out to someone at any time.

The 24/7, ‘always on’ expectation is interfering with our personal lives with 26% reporting this problem. The outcome of continual connectivity is that it can lead to employees feeling mentally exhausted, and in this study, 20% say this is how they felt.

Business needs to allow and encourage employees to switch off after work. Having a break has a positive impact on their wellbeing.

See our article, Detaching from Work Helps Our Mental Health.

Why Should Employers Invest in Mental Health?

Deloitte UK has run the numbers provide the return on investment for employers who invest in mental health. They find that:

  • Organisation‑wide culture change and awareness-raising can give an ROI of 6:1 for every dollar they spend,
  • Proactive training provides an average ROI of 5:1 with training-based interventions returning and ROI of 11:1, and
  • Screening individuals to offer targeted, early-stage support sees an ROI of 10:1.

However, reactive support, such as offering employees therapy or treatment after their mental health becomes worse, provides only an ROI of 3:1.  Arguably, these types of supportive and rehabilitative programmes are critical to getting employees back to good mental health. Still, it is clear that early intervention preventative strategies are the best investment. Improving employee awareness and resilience is the key to maintaining mental fitness.

See our article for the ROI for Australian companies, Why Invest in Workplace Mental Health? What’s the ROI?

See our article, How Can We Grow a Mentally Healthy Workplace?

Using Technology and Training to Improve Employee Mental Health

Smaller businesses may not have the funds to invest in large-scale organisation-wide mental health programs. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that they can’t invest in mental health. The Deloitte UK study found that awareness-raising and culture change provides almost as high a return on investment (5:1).

The most effective programmes are those that are embedded in the organisation over the long term and offer a broad spectrum of interventions.

The study found that to get the most bang for their buck, businesses should:

  • Focus on organisation‑wide activities, and provide training for all employees or specific training for targeted groups,
  • Use technology to reduce costs and increase the likelihood of uptake by limiting the associated stigma, and
  • Use diagnostics and screening to help target interventions for those who need it most.

See our article, Develop a Mentally Healthy Workplace.

How Can Tap into Safety Help?

Tap into Safety‘s mental health literacy training is delivered online, on tablet and mobile phones, on relevant workplace topics that impact mental health using microlearning. We offer practical coping strategies that increase mental health literacy. For businesses looking to invest in mental health, the training helps by intervening early with relevant and engaging content that you can deliver across your organisation.

In the training library, there is a microlearning course on Fatigue Management which is very pertinent to this article. Fatigue is a mechanism for employees to leave.

Critically, the training offers information on where to reach out for support, including a recommendation to access Employment Assistance Programs. The Platform also provides a record of training completion to assist in documented evidence for health and safety compliance requirements.

Above all, clients using the training have seen increases in help-seeking by 100%, as shown in the product evaluation conducted in 2017.

The training provides an alternative method of a non-confrontational way to seek help. By encouraging help-seeking early, we reduce the escalation to serious stress claims. The training suggests several options to encourage employees to tell us when they are not well or not feeling as good as they should.

We believe that organisations are looking for effective ways to support employee mental health in a tight budgetary climate. To assist employers to invest in mental health training, Tap into Safety has a per-use ‘credits’ pricing model, with no lock-in contract or annual unlimited-use annual subscription. If you would like to know more about our Mental Health Literacy Training, contact us and try a FREE online demo today.

Core Mental Health Standards for Employers

For businesses looking to invest in mental health, the Thriving at Work report recommends several core mental health standards for all employers that have been revised in Deloitte UK’s Mental Health and Employers Report. Organisations should:

  1. Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of delivery,
  2. Proactively ensure work design and organisation culture drive positive mental health outcomes,
  3. Promote an open culture around mental health,
  4. Increase organisational confidence and capability,
  5. Provide mental health tools and support, and
  6. Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting.

See our article, Encouraging Reporting of Psychological Injuries.

To Conclude

With the high costs to the business bottom line of presenteeism and absenteeism, there is a need to look at how to invest in mental health. Adding to these two issues is a new condition “leaveism” which is when an employee is “on” 24/7 and does not take a mental break from work.  The impact of leaveism on employees mental health impacts their personal lives and leads to mental exhaustion. Business needs to allow and encourage employees to switch off after work.

This article discusses the economic reasons why businesses should invest in mental health programs and the ROI they should expect. The Deloitte UK study recommends that businesses should:

  • Focus on organisation‑wide activities, and provide training for all employees or specific training for targeted groups,
  • Use technology to reduce costs and increase the likelihood of uptake by limiting the associated stigma, and
  • Use diagnostics and screening to help target interventions for those who need it most.

Early intervention preventative strategies are the best investment. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than the cure.

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