Your employees’ mental health is critical to the long-term success of your business

Your employees’ mental health is critical to the long-term success of your business

Mental illness in the workplace can have a profound effect on your business as it relates directly to decreased productivity, increased sick-related absenteeism, poor work quality, wasted materials and even compromised workplace safety. Mental illness is also the leading cause of long-term workplace absence in most developed countries. Unfortunately, employers tend to completely underestimate the profound financial impact mental illness in the workplace has on their bottom line.

Depression is on the rise

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that depression will be the second highest cause of morbidity in the world by 2020 and as mental illness rises it is incurring high social and economic costs. With more than 9.7% of the South African population (or 4.5 million to be exact) suffering from depression, the chances are quite real that the person sitting next to you in the office is, at some stage in their lives, coping with the condition. In addition, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group predicts that depression could soon overtake HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of illness in South Africa.

New South African research involving over 1000 employed/previously employed workers or managers in the country proves depression is not “just a bad mood”. 74% of respondents experienced one or more of the following symptoms when they were depressed: trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, poor memory, problem-solving difficulties, and slower thinking speed.

Depression versus productivity

According to the IDEA study conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science, depression costs South Africa more than R232bn or 5.7% of the country’s GDP due to lost productivity – either due to absence from work or attending work while unwell. If an employee has depression but is at work, they are 5 times less productive than an employee who was absent due to depression,” says Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychologist, Dr Frans Korb. During their last depressive episode, SA employees took an average of 18 days off work due to their condition. What is more worrying for employers is that 80% of those diagnosed with depression continued to work during their last episode of depression – raising the question as to how their poor performance negatively impacted their company?

Proactive management is the best medicine

An employer cannot expect the employee suffering from a mental illness like depression or anxiety to be the only one held accountable. Organisations have a legal responsibility in terms of the welfare of their staff. The law in South Africa states that an employee with a mental health condition has a constitutional right to equality, human dignity, reasonable accommodation and fair labour practice. The best way for an organisation to deal with mental illness is to proactively manage mental illness by creating awareness around it.

5 steps to proactively dealing with mental illness in the workplace

  1. Raise awareness of how mental illnesses like depression can affect work performance
  2. Educate your employees about any existing assistance programmes. Many companies have established programmes to manage depression, bipolar disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse amongst employees. International companies like Google and Amazon are incorporating daily walks and nature into the office environment to help build emotional resilience and maintain emotional well-being
  3. Promote a culture of acceptance around depression and other mental illnesses – they are no different to disorders like asthma or diabetes
  4. If an employee approaches you about their mental illness – refer them to an accredited healthcare professional who can help treat them
  5. Consider creative ways to support your mentally ill employee’s recovery including working from home or flexible working hours.

One of the first steps to encouraging wellbeing in the workplace is ensuring that employees are culturally matched with the companies in which they are placed and that their skills are ideal for their new positions. At GG Recruitment we work closely with our clients and candidates to ensure that every placement we make is the first step on the path to success and happiness. For more information, contact us today.

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