Along with physical health, the pandemic has also put the spotlight on mental health, particularly in the workplace where long hours and overtime, lack of sleep, inordinate levels of continued and consistent stress, and general worry about personal and public health have taken a toll on employees. As a result, medical professionals are doing their part to break the stigma and help those affected to understand that seeking mental health assistance is just as normal as going to the doctor. But, what role does the employer play in employee mental health, and are there ways they can help encourage wellbeing while also improving productivity and overall employee happiness? We recently sat down with psychiatrist Dr. Chris Bojrab to ask these questions and more. Check out this snippet of the conversation and be sure to listen to the full episode for even more fascinating information on a topic that is of great importance in today’s workplace.

 

Candee Chambers:
What happens with the work environment if mental health continues to be put on the back burner? Because you know there are a lot of companies that are like, “We’ve got to hit productivity,” and “profit, profit, profit,” which I’m all about profitability and assisting our Members and that sort of thing, but I also know that the health of my employees is a driver to the organization’s success. So, what happens if companies don’t get it?

 

Dr. Chris Bojrab:
Taking care of employees this way is not only the “right thing to do” from the standpoint of just caring about other people as people, it’s also the right thing to do just purely from a business sense. Mental health conditions are extraordinarily costly in terms of lost productivity. Most major organizations, if you look at the CDC, if you look at the World Health Organization, if you look at surveys that are done by universities around the world, depression typically ranks third among all health conditions in terms of the cost to annual productivity.

The top two are cancer and bronchitis, cancer because it can take you out of the workplace for so long, and bronchitis because, well, although it’s not often not terribly severe, it’s so prevalent.

 

Candee Chambers:
Yeah.

 

Dr. Chris Bojrab:
And then depression follows closely on the heels there, because this is something that can affect people at any point in their life and can oftentimes be recurrent, and the costs are not just – and this is really exclusive of the direct medical cost to care for these patients, this is purely just a productivity issue ­– oftentimes we think about the impact of lost work days or absenteeism. And that is the tip of the iceberg. Presenteeism, the reduction in work productivity that people have as a result of how they’re feeling, even though they’re physically located at work that day, is estimated to be 10 times higher than the cost of absenteeism.

One recent report I saw from a few years ago said that the estimated cost in the U.S. of absenteeism because of depression is about 150 billion dollars a year.

 

Candee Chambers:
Oh my gosh.

 

Dr. Chris Bojrab:
But the cost of productivity due to presenteeism, the reduction in productivity of people who are physically at work but not working up to their capacity is 1500 billion as opposed to 150 billion.

So, it’s in employer’s best interest because you’re going to be… It’s like if you had a delivery service and you were never doing any maintenance on your vehicles. Not only is it the right thing to do in terms of taking care of one another, it’s the right business decision to make.

 

Listen to Season 3, Episode 3 of the DE Talk podcast to find out how employers can do their part to assist and encourage employees, as well as why zebras don’t get ulcers…intrigued? You should be.

Kacie Clark
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