Nancy Spangler, Ph.D., OTR/L
Most employers don’t realize that a significant percentage of people with symptoms of a mental health or substance use condition doesn’t receive appropriate treatment. Instead, they suffer in silence, which creates struggles across many areas of life – including their engagement and performance and work.
Our mental health can decline, just as our physical health can. Mental health conditions are highly prevalent, so employers are likely to see employees with various kinds of impairments that affect their ability to work at optimal capacity. Many employers offer help through behavioral health services – employee assistance programs and mental health benefits – yet these services are often poorly understood and underused.
The Disability Management Employer Coalition and The Standard Insurance Company recently partnered to develop a white paper to help employers be prepared and knowledgeable about behavioral health concerns. I was honored to offer thought leadership in the development of this expert consensus on behalf of Greenleaf.
The white paper, Managing Optimal Work Performance Through Behavioral Health Conditions, highlights information to help employers know that a predictable sequence of impacts and events often occur as symptoms of mental health conditions emerge in employees. Multiple areas of a worker’s life can become compromised.
When supervisors and managers know how to support employees and to steer them toward effective resources, it can make the critical difference in whether the employee retains work abilities and remains actively engaged, or takes a leave of absence. The longer the absence, the less likely the employee will return at all. Since employers invest a lot in training and developing an employee, retaining that employee should be a priority.
We at Greenleaf believe there is much that employers can do to help employees be more resilient to the stressors that contribute to mental and physical conditions — and the work performance impairments that often result. We encourage employers to look at the wellness spectrum (see graphic below) and dedicate resources on the right side in the form of prevention and early intervention services. By preventing movement to the left (DISABILITY) , we can avoid more intensive, and more expensive, interventions.
Not to be forgotten, much can be done to mitigate unnecessary stress so that it does not burden people in the first place. For example, ensuring that the workplace culture encourages open communication and trust can go a long way in helping reduce distress and enhancing team effectiveness. Mental health is thus integrated as an important component of overall wellbeing.
I hope you’ll check out the white paper and share it with your colleagues. Let us know if you have additional thoughts on how to encourage employers to be more proactive in supporting employee mental wellbeing.
This was first published on Greenleaf Integrative on 12-06-2018.