State of Mind

Organizations Are Taking Steps to Promote Strong Mental Health in the Workplace

 
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ISTOCKPHOTO

Organizations are launching projects to help their workers maintain good mental health. And with good reason: Depression and anxiety cost the global economy an estimated US$1 trillion annually in lost productivity, according to the World Health Organization.

Job-related stress and depression or anxiety are employers’ biggest behavioral health concerns, according to a 2019 Mercer survey. That outpaces financial stress, alcohol problems and opioid use. In response, organizations are implementing mental health initiatives ranging from employee assistance programs to teletherapy and even gene testing.

Staples Canada, for example, launched a pilot program for pharmacogenetic testing to help employees find the most effective medications by studying their genetic breakdown. And EY, which launched its mental health program in 2016, has steadily expanded its services based on employee feedback. Last year, the organization rolled out an expansion of its peer-support program.

As part of EY's We Care, the EY Assist team has provided in-person and virtual training to human resources professionals and other employees. The goal is to have them better identify and respond to subtle changes in behavior, such as a decline in job performance, which can indicate poor mental health.

“We wanted to be proactive and make sure people feel comfortable getting care even when they don't have a crisis,” says Michael Weiner, director, EY Assist, EY, New York, New York, USA. “It's a greater focus on early detection of risks.”

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—Michael Weiner, EY, New York, New York, USA

One EY project launched this year is targeting impaired sleep. In 2018, EY Assist sent out communication about sleep health. The team tracked the click-through rate on the email's sleep-related links and found it got almost five times more views than any other mental-health-related communication the team had sent in the previous two years. So the team developed and deployed a cutting-edge digital sleep assessment and sleep enhancement tool. Employees who score high for disrupted sleep are invited to participate in a customized, digital cognitive behavioral therapy program.

The main challenge for such initiatives, Mr. Weiner says, is finding time for employees to engage with them. The team has addressed that issue by keeping its communications brief and by integrating the content into other firm communications.

Since We Care's launch, employees’ use of EY's employee assistance program resources has risen more than 40 percent. Their use of EY's internal mental health support team has gone up more than 100 percent.

“That's a reflection that our people are getting care and getting it early,” Mr. Weiner says.

A New Awareness

US$1 trillion

Estimated annual global economic cost of depression and anxiety due to lost productivity

49%

Proportion of employers that, in the last two years, have enhanced their employee assistance programs or changed employee assistance program vendors for more robust offerings

Sources: World Health Organization, Mercer

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