COVID-19 had a profound impact on the physical health of numerous employees; however, for many people, it also effected their mental state. Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, absenteeism due to mental illness was a burning issue. A growing number of people are suffering from increasing pressure at work and in their private lives – pressure to do everything faster, and to do it better. With additional responsibilities, often a lack of support from those around them, more frequent conflicts at work and even the fear of losing their job, people are increasingly being pushed to the limit. This can have serious consequences; for example, in Switzerland, employees miss an average of 6.5 days of work per year. The number of mental illnesses has also risen massively in recent years, with around 20% of the population in Germany, Austria and Switzerland suffering from some form of mental illness.
Employers need to recognise the added value in adopting suitable measures
Companies which see the health of their employees as a key factor in their success will enjoy even greater success in the future, particularly when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. Yet many companies have yet to recognise the added value in prioritising the health of their workforce. In our experience, employers tend to fall short in catering for their employees’ mental health in particular. There is often a lack of information – or not enough is done to raise awareness – about mental health issues and targeted preventive measures. The fact that over half of all cases of incapacity to work due to mental health issues are caused by workplace conflicts should be enough to make employers sit up and take notice.
Yet even today, openly addressing the topic of mental illness is often taboo, and few of those affected will speak candidly about it with their superiors. Very often, managers simply find themselves overwhelmed when dealing with these types of illness; they do not have the knowledge to handle those affected in the right way, and prejudices such as the notion that depressed employees are just being lazy persist.
Giving employees the support they need
There are numerous ways for companies to boost employees’ mental health and make their workforce more resilient. The key is to provide support based on the needs of the employees themselves. This depends on the composition of the workforce, for example in terms of age and the gender ratio.
Many companies need to rethink their approach to mental health. In particular, supervisors should raise the issue with employees if they notice any signs of mental illness and provide those affected with the support they need. This means training supervisors so they are more aware of and able to deal with these types of illness. The high economic costs associated with mental illnesses back this up; according to Health Promotion Switzerland’s Job Stress Index, the costs amount to CHF 7.6 billion every year. Taking this into account, it makes sense for employers to invest in training their managers and create a form of “healthy leadership” – not in the sense of a new trend, but to highlight the connection between health, satisfaction and performance in employees.
Companies have much to gain from promoting (mental) health
Healthy, happy, productive employees are the core capital of any company. However, the increasing pressure to work faster and perform better makes them susceptible to mental illness. The consequences – frequent absences, the sudden departure of key employees and increases in premiums for daily sickness benefit insurance, accident insurance and pension funds – can be a heavy burden on a company.
In these times of demographic change and given the increasing shortage of skilled workers, there are real opportunities to be had for those employers who take the (mental) health of their workforce into account and actively promote it. With targeted measures, companies can prevent and even reduce absenteeism. At the same time, they have the opportunity to strengthen employer branding and employee retention and motivation.elipsLife’s Care Management is a proven means to reduce employee absenteeism, including absences due to mental illness. This goes far beyond preventive measures, making HR managers and supervisors more aware of general health and social issues and, particularly, mental illnesses, and providing advice and training wherever needed. In acute cases, elipsLife’s Case Management comes into play, which sees a person of trust provide those affected with expert support from an early stage on their way back to the workplace. With this combined approach, elipsLife Care Management helps save costs over the long term, and leaves managers free to concentrate on the company’s core business.