Poor mental health in the workplace has been a much talked about topic in recent months, and for good reason. According to a UK government study, depression, anxiety and stress account for 50% of all work-related ill health cases in Great Britain.

This supports our own research with YouGov and SolentMind, which found that 37% of people are suffering from worse mental health than pre-pandemic and 73% cite work as being at least partly responsible.

Workplace-induced mental health problems can lead to both a range of physical illnesses and burnout amongst employees, which seriously affects their ability to contribute meaningfully in both their personal and professional lives.

This also negatively affects employers: Deloitte found that in certain industries, employee mental health issues can cost businesses up to US$ 4,638 annually per worker. These costs come from increased absenteeism, costs to deal with the issue and, as we’re going to touch on in this article, a negative impact on productivity, which in turn can negatively affect profit.

Shockingly, according to the World Health Organisation’s latest figures, depression and anxiety cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year from reduced productivity (a result of 12 billion lost working days annually.)

So how exactly do mental health and stress-related issues cause a reduction in productivity and what can you do about it?

Mental health and productivity in the workplace: the consequences

  • Loss of concentration

    Mental health disorders can wreak havoc on concentration levels, increasing the risk of making errors or poor decisions.

    In fact, loss of concentration is in itself a symptom of depression. And feeling like you’re not getting enough done due to a loss of concentration can cause anxiety. This makes it even harder to concentrate and continues to fuel that negative cycle.

    It comes as no surprise then that, according to the American Psychiatric Association, employees with unresolved depression experience a 35% reduction in productivity.

  • Lack of self-worth

    Mental illnesses can result in a serious lack of self-worth as a loss of concentration can cause missed deadlines, which can then lead to feeling useless and helpless. Employees suffering from depression tend to be highly self-critical and often have an ongoing internal dialogue that is harshly judgmental of themselves.

    Having someone else be critical (e.g. due to work being late) can then make them spiral out of control, triggering feelings of shame at being exposed as deficient. So while nobody likes to be criticised, it can be particularly difficult for individuals with depression and anxiety disorders, and will only make it harder for them to get back on track with work deadlines.

  • Difficulties around communication

    For individuals suffering from mental health issues, interacting with colleagues can become a struggle, which tends to result in them becoming more and more isolated from their team members. As it stands, less than 10% of employees feel comfortable talking about mental health at work.

    This can result in communication barriers amongst colleagues, which can quickly turn into a recipe for disaster productivity-wise and affect entire teams. 

Improving employee mental health to increase productivity

Given all of the above, it comes as no surprise then that there is strong evidence that a mentally healthy workforce is both more productive and more profitable

From offering company-wide mental health services to providing incentives to improve employees’ mental and physical conditions and giving access to mental health professionals, there are plenty of ways you can support employees. To make life as easy as possible for you, we’ve put together a three-step action plan: 

PUSH’s three-step action plan

  • Learn about the importance of safe spaces

    Organisational innovation, growth and productivity all have one thing in common: a ‘safe space’ for employees to feel heard, understood and supported.

    At PUSH, we surveyed a nationally representative audience of C-Suite leaders, middle managers and junior employees to understand the current mental health situation at UK companies. And the findings all pointed toward safety and connection as a way to enable employee performance and growth.

    Start off by downloading our reports to learn more.

  • Understand what’s really going on at your company

    The next step is to get the down-low on what’s really going on with your people.

    We offer an audit to assess your company’s current corporate wellness, mental health, organisational culture and change, performance and leadership. Based on a combination of both quantitive and qualitative research methods, we analyse the data we collect and provide a full report with recommended next steps.

    Find out about the PUSH audit.

  • Sign up for our Safe Space sessions

    As part of World Mental Health Day 2022, we taught companies how to foster positive mental health and wellbeing through safe spaces.

    Our session ‘Creating psychological safety in the workplace’, led by a trained clinical psychologist, explains the factors that foster psychological safety and undermine it, and shares evidence-based approaches to create a culture of psychological safety.

    Sign up for our Safe Space sessions today.
Cate Murden
Cate is the Founder and CEO of PUSH. She created PUSH with the fierce belief that with the right tools, mindsets and behaviours, we could build better workplaces full of happy, healthy and high-performing individuals.

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