In consulting business leaders we have found that their motivations for implementing workplace policies and practices that support the mental health and wellbeing of an organisation’s staff vary. There is typically no single motivation but, rather, several motivations working in combination.
Those most commonly cited are:
- Protecting the mental health and wellbeing of employees
- Doing the "right thing"
- Benefits in employee engagement and reputation
- Managing costs and liabilities
Protecting the mental health and wellbeing of employees
Over the past 15 years there has been an increase in the awareness, acceptance and action in mental health in many domains including the workplace.
For many employers protecting, supporting and enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of employees is the primary motivation for undertaking action.
There is a body of evidence that details the economic costs related to workplace mental health, covering absenteeism, presenteeism and the wider costs of staff turnover and recruitment. In addition, there is also evidence and case studies that point toward practices that are effective in addressing risk factors and in building resilience to overcome and manage life's stressors.
This comes at a time of significant economic upheaval and organisational pressures to do more with less as well as an ever-growing appreciation that companies' greatest assets are their people.
Also, anti-stigma efforts by governments and civil society are helping to put mental health on the health continuum as an issue that can be managed with appropriate support, and in the knowledge that there are many prevention and early-intervention techniques that can positively affect and/or shorten the course of the illness.
"It is the right thing to do"
This motivation relates to the concept that mental health is no longer considered a moral issue or weakness, and that civil society behaviours and attitudes about mental health must change. In many countries and in international organisations, this is reflected by a significant increase in public recognition of mental ill health, and supportive public discourse about it.
Thus, whether in providing better access to support and services to people who need them, or in increased investment in research into effective treatments and cures and inclusive and non-discriminatory policies, mental health is an issue whose time has come.
This includes actions in the workplace. It is becoming simply "the right thing to do".
Employee engagement and reputational benefits
Alignment with organisational culture and a company's overall health and wellbeing commitment is also cited as motivation. Research, case studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that many other benefits accrue from mental health policies. These include how the employee feels about their organisation and how motivated and equipped they feel to be productive and creative. These in turn translate into further positive impact on an organisation's reputation as a great place to work, positively impacting employee retention and recruitment.
Cost and liability management
Beyond the significant human costs of mental ill health, it is widely accepted that mental illnesses have a significant organisational cost, related to lost work time due to disability, absenteeism, presenteeism and legal/liability costs.
Very little research has been done focussed on the cost-benefit analysis of combating mental ill health, and there is no agreed upon best practice on which to base such a calculation.
However all the evidence that we are aware of point to net benefits. Depending on the data and assumptions used, the return on investment can range from adequate to excellent and at a minimum is cost neutral with many positive impacts not easily or directly measurable by financial metrics. These include employee engagement, recruitment and retention, the ability to adapt and manage stressors in the work and at home, and the ability to perform with creativity and imagination.
Learn how to calculate the return on investment for your company.