The numbers are in and addressing mental health at work is a winning investment, at least according to one new study. This is good news for businesses that have been thinking about taking a more active role in helping maintain good mental health for team members at work, but that have yet to take the plunge.

The study, performed by Deloitte, looked at seven major Canadian companies that had implemented various preventative programs and measurable initiatives for at least three years to address mental health among employees.

It found that the median return on investment for every CA$1 (US$0.75) spent on mental health measures was CA$1.62 (US$1.22) after three years and rose to CA$2.18 (US$1.64) if the measures were in place for longer than three years. 

Considering that mental health issues contribute to 30 to 40 percent of short-term disability claims within Canada and about 40 percent of long-term disability claims in the country, addressing mental health in a preventative manner seems like a no-brainer.

Regardless of what country you do business in, addressing mental health -- especially in a preventative capacity -- is good for both the business and employees.

It's something we have recently been exploring at the business I started with my wife, both as something we would like to implement at the business and as a product package for other businesses in the form of kits that are capable of testing for certain stress hormones.

For businesses that are thinking of adding mental health measures to their employee wellness and/or benefits packages, keep these four guidelines in mind.

1. Play the long game.

Addressing mental health likely won't give you immediate increases in productivity or decreases in absenteeism. It could take a few years for them to get that coveted positive ROI, so some patience is required. It's a long-term investment that is measured by more than just dollars and cents.

Unlike something like drug testing, addressing mental health at work isn't something that businesses generally decide to do and then make a comprehensive policy and sweeping changes to do it. Rather, they start by doing it in small increments and adding to it over time.

A good place to start is by identifying workplace issues that may contribute to poor employee mental health and taking incremental steps to fix those.

Canada has the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, which is a voluntary set of guidelines that companies can choose to adopt to help them address mental health in the workplace. While the United States has no such standard nationally, California passed legislation last year that is similar in scope with voluntary standards companies can use to guide themselves. Either one of these can be used as a starting point for companies that want to make mental health more of a priority. 

2. Be proactive.

It's not enough to just deal with poor mental health. You should invest in proactive programs that promote positive mental health in addition to treatment. Deciding what those programs should be might involve doing some in-house research with team members.

One thing that has proved to be beneficial at our company is the charitable work we do as a company. We pack food hampers as a team and we also give team members work time for doing their own charitable work. Giving back to the community and helping those in need has positive mental health benefits, according to Harvard Medical School.

You may find that your team wants to be able to bring their dogs to work or get help paying for yoga classes or having a quiet place at work to retreat to sometimes. Find out what your team would benefit from the most. 

3. Prioritize.

If you are wondering where to spend your money first, prioritize investments in the highest impact areas, such as leadership training and return-to-work programs. The more prepared your supervisors and managers are to deal with issues of mental health at work, the better.

For a lot of people who are dealing with mental health issues, getting back to normalcy, which means getting back to their regular work, is an important step. Anything you can do to make that transition easier will be incredibly helpful.

4. Use your numbers. 

Use your data analytics to evaluate whether your investments in mental health programs are having the desired impact and adoption rate and use these results to adapt your programs and initiatives as necessary. Mental health is a relatively new frontier for most businesses, so the data you collect and how you use it is crucial.

Published on: Nov 22, 2019
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