National Safety Month 2022: Mental Health, Stress, and Workplace Impairment
In 2022, conversations about mental health in the workplace have become more common than ever. After two years of living and working through a pandemic, today's workers are facing tremendous amounts of stress owing not just to the disruptions to everyday life but to the increased workloads and shifting environments that the pandemic brought.
Now, though life has in some ways returned to normal, the workplace remains a common site for mental health issues. Workers spend a large portion of their days and weeks on the job, and when mental health becomes a problem, it quickly affects morale, productivity, and even workplace injury risks. For employers, this presents a challenge: how can a business or organization support workers' mental health in a way that materially improves outcomes in the workplace while remaining cost-effective?
In this episode, we talked with Dr. Kimlinger about recent evolutions in how employers are treating mental health in the workplace, discussing a range of solutions that enterprises of all sizes are utilizing to help support their workers and foster healthy work environments.
To understand how employers can effectively tackle mental health challenges in their workforces, it's essential to recognize the full scope of the issue. Research published in Lancet Regional Health – Americas reported that before the pandemic, 8.5% of adults faced elevated depression symptoms. But in 2021, that number rose to 32.8%, more than tripling over the course of two years. That spike can be traced to the pandemic and other economic and personal factors, but its effects on the workplace are predictable: lower productivity, lower employee engagement, and greater risk of both fatigue and workplace injury. Another study published in BMC Public Health analyzed the connections between occupational stress and mental health issues among coal mine workers in China found that workers experiencing stress or negative mental health factors were more likely to sustain musculoskeletal injuries.
How can employers support employee mental health?
The connections between mental health, stress and workplace safety have never been more evident, and employers are increasingly emphasizing mental health support in their safety and wellness plans. With turnover soaring across virtually all industries, workers are also beginning to prioritize mental well-being when it comes to selecting a job. For enterprises dedicated to retaining top talent, mental health support is critical.
That's why many employers are developing innovative, proactive plans using a “total worker wellness” approach based on the NIOSH Total Worker Health framework. These programs often include mental health supports such as:
Accessible personal counseling, therapy, and medication management
Personal coaching and professional development programming
Mindfulness training through smartphone apps and other services
Flexibility in scheduling where possible
Available PTO supported by organizational culture
These are just a few of the many options available to employers hoping to improve their operations, retention, and bottom line. Want to learn more about mental health and the connections between wellness and ergonomic injuries in the workplace? Watch this webinar today.
Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.