Offering Mental Health Benefits at Work Is Good Business

In the 24/7 economy, more and more full-time employees are reporting feeling burned out at work. Workplace alienation, unreasonable expectations, ubiquitous hours, unmanageable task-load, workplace politics, and the overwhelming necessity of having to be available via email and text at all hours are all key contributors as to why the modern workforce is feeling burned out.

According to a Gallup study, 23 percent of full-time employees report feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes. This burnout can be translated into stress that interrupts interpersonal relationships, to physical ailments in its extremes like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol and even death for those under the age of 45. All of this healthcare spending adds up to around $125 billion to $190 billion in health-care spending each year.

Stress and burnout are very real problems that the modern day workforce are dealing with, and when that stress and burnout couples with undiagnosed, untreated, or inaccessible mental health issues, the complications can be even more severe. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness, ranging in severity, with 40% of adults with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder not receiving treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, untreated mental illnesses cost about $100 billion a year in lost productivity due to hospitalization, loss of employment, impacted productivity, and shortened life spans.

Treatment for mental health is currently out of reach for many people. It takes time, money, and access to be able to begin treatment- that is why so many go untreated. There is also a stigma involved with mental illness, and for some that stigma is a barrier to health. If employers were to begin incorporating mental health access into their benefits, for all employees regardless of company status, such a move could be the groundswell of destigmatization that the mental health crisis facing us needs.

Companies at the top are already trying this approach to employee benefits to great success. The Silicon Valley juggernaut, Netflix, already sees this as a necessity in the modern workplace, and offers their employees the ability to take time for themselves when they need in addition to access to mental health services and parental leave. American Express offers employees on-site counseling, something that goes a long way for the destigmatization of therapy.

These efforts aren’t just ideas that sound good, they’re actually having a real and measurable impact on these businesses’ bottom line. According to the World Health Organization, “for every $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.” Meaning that when companies take their employee’s mental health seriously, they become four times as healthy and productive.

If these policies and programs can be scaled to the point where all employees have access to mental health treatment, then that could completely revolutionize how and who gets access to mental health. Such a change could revitalize not only our workspaces, but also how we relate to one another as a society. It is clear that investing in employee mental health offers numerous benefits personally, interpersonally, and at large. What needs to be clearer is how all employers can get there.