Report: Supporting employee mental health = safer workplace, good ROI

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New research from the National Safety Council (NSC) indicates employers that support their employees’ mental health will not only have a safer workplace but will also see a return of $4 for every dollar invested in support efforts.

More than 40% of Americans reported increased mental distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to workplace safety issues and increased healthcare costs, but new research indicates employers that support their employees’ mental health will benefit in a number of ways.

A ‘hidden issue’

“Employee safety is at risk any time a worker isn’t feeling 100% well — which is why we recommend employers prioritize both workers’ mental and physical wellbeing,” Lorraine Martin, NSC president and CEO, said in a news release.

Mental distress has been “a hidden issue in the workplace, with 85% of workers reporting the workplace itself affects their mental health and wellbeing.”

Workplace stress

The workplace can cause stress, which is one risk factor for mental distress, and chronic exposure to stressful workplace conditions can lead to a variety of mental health conditions.

Combined with stressful conditions at home, and the added stress caused by the pandemic over the past year, and the problem can grow out of control quickly.

The research also found that:

  • Employees experiencing mental distress use nearly $3,000 more, on average, in health care services per year than their peers with the cost of days lost averaging $4,783 per year per employee, and the costs of turnover averaging $5,733 per year per employee
  • Employees who have experienced mental distress in the past year are more likely to have reported driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other drugs
  • Organizations spend more than $15,000 on average annually on each employee experiencing mental health issues, according to pre-COVID-19 data, which means this likely underrepresents the current costs, and
  • Mentally distressed workers are 3.5 times more likely to have substance use disorders.

Tool for employers

To address this issue, and to help employers better understand their role in supporting employee mental health, the NSC and National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago created the Mental Health Cost Calculator.

The calculator is an “easy-to-use tool” that provides business leaders with data regarding the costs of employee mental distress in the workplace and identifies specific ways untreated distress impacts employer costs.

Those costs include an estimate of the dollars lost in days of work missed, turnover and replacement costs and increased healthcare use by distressed workers and their family members.

Research-proven steps employers can take to help employees and their families recover while also increasing the safety, health and productivity of the workplace are also included with the calculator.

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