The last year has been tough for everyone at varying levels. Burnout and employee mental health challenges have increased as work environments were forced to adapt to pandemic-related changes. And the relationship between the workplace and supervisor support has undoubtedly shifted to a new and increasingly important role. What should employers know about mental health in the workplace if they are to help employees through challenges? We have provided a brief guide.
What Is Burnout?
Contrary to what you may think, employees do not need to work in high-stress environments to experience burnout. Burnout is a threat to employee mental health across company size, industry, and organizational rank. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is defined as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance or negative feelings towards one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy (WHO, 2019). Common factors that contribute to burnout include overwhelming workload, long working hours, chronic staff shortages, an aggressive administrative environment, and a lack of support from management. Burnout has frequently accompanied lower productivity and quality of work, job dissatisfaction, low organizational commitment, absenteeism, intention to leave the job, and turnover.
Nearly 85% of workers said their workplace stress affects their mental health (MHA, 2021).
What Is an Employer’s Responsibility Regarding Mental Health in the Workplace?
As an employer, you have a responsibility to keep your staff safe. This includes ensuring that they uphold good mental health and avoid burnout.
Importantly, note that it is illegal to discriminate against mental health conditions unless there is objective evidence that a diagnosed mental illness poses a safety risk or results in poor performance. Even then, employers must provide reasonable accommodation to mental health condition sufferers, which might include altered work and break schedules, environmental changes, or changes in supervision. Thus, you cannot fire someone because they seem depressed; you must attempt to work with the mental illness and prove that an employee’s condition makes them unfit for employment.
Despite the growing awareness of mental health conditions, they remain stigmatized, so many who are struggling may feel uncomfortable admitting their mental trouble and seeking help. Yet, untreated mental illness leads to missed work, demonstrated lower performance, and otherwise less-than-ideal employees. Indeed, untreated mental illness costs U.S. companies over $100 billion every year in lost productivity.
How Employee Assistance Programs Can Help
An employer-sponsored Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a work-based intervention designed to identify and assist employees in resolving personal problems that may adversely affect their performance at work. Starting workplace conversations about mental health and available resources is challenging. Such conditions are often seen as a personal failing rather than a medical condition. However, by having an EAP and training employees to be sensitive to signs of mental illness, you open the floor to acceptance, advocation, and a safe environment.
PuzzleHR’s EAP goes beyond traditional EAP services and offers your employees a truly holistic approach to wellbeing. With offerings like Behavioral Health Counseling, Cognitive Wellbeing with the Self by Design mindset app, and even Child/Eldercare Resources, a healthy work/life balance has never been more attainable.
You might also be interested in:
Mental Health in the Workplace Zoom Webinar with PuzzleHR and Greenspoon Marder LLP.
This webinar will discuss how leaders can better prepare themselves to support employees through these challenging times. We will explore:
• Leadership tools and skills including managing remote employees and developing empathy skills.
• Resources for employees struggling with mental health and substance abuse challenges.
• Employment laws that impact mental health in the workplace.
Date: April 22, 2021, at 1:00 PM Eastern Time (ET)