American Businesses Must Prioritize Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace
Now more than ever before, employers are prioritizing employee mental health and emotional wellbeing. The need is overwhelming and the investment is rewarded.
A World Health Organization study estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. This same study found that “workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, and benefit from associated economic gains.”
With one in five adults experiencing mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, now is the time for employers to prioritize mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
How can American businesses commit to promoting wellness in the workplace?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, in collaboration with the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) Executive Order Task Force and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs invites American businesses to join the Wellbeing in the Workplace coalition by pledging to prioritize mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Nearly three dozen companies have already signed the pledge, with an estimated impact of six million employees.
The pledge not only works to overcome stigma associated with mental health challenges, but asks employers to provide employees with the services and resources needed to sustain mental wellness. The pledge emphasizes the important role that veteran employees can play in reducing stigma and creating resiliency in the workplace.
What is the Wellbeing in the Workplace pledge?
Through the pledge, employers vow to undertake the following core actions to effect change in the United States:
Overcome Stigma. We will work together to explore this taboo topic by encouraging senior leaders to engage in open and healthy conversations. The plan is to leverage senior executives and frontline managers to serve as role models in the fight to normalize mental health problems and encourage mental and emotional wellness.
Adopt a Comprehensive, Proactive and Education Approach. In an effort to prioritize the mental wellbeing of all employees, American businesses will make available resources, training, and/or educational opportunities to employees to help them recognize the signs of possible struggles in themselves and their colleagues, as well as available tools and resources to address mental health and wellbeing issues when they arise.
Provide Access to Assistance and Services. Employers will make behavioral health services such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and/or mental health benefits available to support employees in need and to create a culture of health and wellbeing.
Assess and Measure. We will use qualitative information related to efforts to reduce stigmas, promote awareness, and provide access to services in order to inform future interventions and services on a continuous basis.
Build a Culture of Inclusion. Employers will promote a safe, inclusive work environment and leverage employee resource groups to help drive awareness around mental health and emotional wellbeing topics, creating communities of support.
Continuous Evaluation and Ongoing Collaboration. American businesses will commit to ongoing efforts to review the effectiveness of mental health and emotional wellbeing programs at their companies and make necessary adjustments based on the needs of our employees and available data from private and public partners. They will collaborate as community leaders to share best practices and lessons learned, working to provide greater understanding among the business community.
What wellness resources are available for American businesses?
In collaboration with the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) Executive Order Task Force and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation worked with a coalition of companies and organizations to create “Wellbeing in the Workplace: A Practice Guide for Business” workbook. This best practices workbook is a guide for businesses of all sizes as they work to prioritize mental health and emotional wellbeing in their workplaces. It is available for free download here.
Here are additional resources available through Hiring Our Heroes and our partners:
- Hiring Our Heroes’ Digital Resources is a virtual education and training center that allows our nation’s military community to engage in world-class career curriculum from anywhere. The first year of transition is a time of considerable adjustment for men and women of the military and finding the connectedness and the ability to contribution to the civilian workforce is a protective factor to safeguard their mental wellness. Learn about innovative programming related to the mental health of employees in the workplace from our friends at the SHRM Foundation.
- The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) has a list of resources to help employees monitor their wellbeing during this difficult time. It also includes tools that encourage individuals to take action.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation offers a Mental Health First Aid at Work This program teaches participants how to notice and support an individual who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use concern or crisis, and connect them with the appropriate employee resources. More than 150 employers participated in this training in 2019.
Depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation and hopelessness not only plague productivity and work quality, they can have a real impact on employee morale and our sense of shared purpose. By removing stigma and proactively providing support, employers have the opportunity to positively impact the health of their employees, their families and the American workforce.