(TND) — Poor mental health among workers can seriously impact productivity and the bottom lines for companies, according to new research.
A Gallup survey shows employees with inadequate mental health have four times more unplanned work absences than colleagues who report good mental health.
Gallup estimated that unintended missed time – things like calling in sick or leaving a shift early – adds up to nearly 12 days a year for each of these workers, and that’s estimated to cost the economy $47.6 billion annually in lost productivity.
“First and foremost, we found that mental health is a real issue in the American workforce,” said Dan Witters, the research director of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.
The impact of poor mental health goes beyond missed time. Witters said past research has also shown it can stifle productivity while folks are at work.
He said companies are starting to recognize the importance of employee well-being, but too few companies appreciate the full impact of poor mental health on their workforces.
“Too many still look upon mental health as a box to be checked, too many look upon mental health as a separate kind of category of illness,” Witters said.
He said a company might not expect an employee to come to work with a broken leg.
“But if I’ve got a worker who’s feeling depressed today, or anxiety, well that’s different,” Witters described some companies’ outlooks. “Get out of bed, come into work. It’s still looked upon differently.”
Gallup said nearly a fifth of workers rate their mental health as fair or poor, as opposed to good, very good or excellent.
Women (23%) are more likely to report fair or poor mental health than men (15%), and workers under age 30 (31%) are more likely to report fair or poor mental health than older workers.
Witters said the overall findings weren’t surprising, as they align with previous research.
But he said an “eye-popping” poll result was that 40% of workers say their job has a negative impact on their mental health.
“That one just about knocked me out of my chair when I saw it,” Witters said. “I was very surprised by that number.”
He also said a “sobering statistic” was that most workers (57%) are unable to confirm the existence of easily accessible mental health support services in their workplace.
“That’s a bit of an indictment on U.S. employers and shows how either they’re not doing enough to provide these sort of support services or they’re not doing a good enough job to make sure their employees are aware of them,” Witters said.
Witters said things like self-care apps that a company provides through its health care plan are fine tools, but they only work if a company already has an engaged workforce.
They don’t replace basic needs like providing clarity on job function, routine recognition, mentorship, and offering opportunities to grow, he said.
“You can be checking off boxes, and if you don’t have a very well-engaged workforce, it’s just checking off boxes,” he said.
Witters’ advice to workers falls along the same lines. He said people can improve their mental health on the job by finding a place with a manager who cares about them, by finding a job that fits their natural strengths, and by finding a workplace with a schedule and culture that matches their personal needs.