Early intervention in and destigmatization of mental health is a benefit to every company in regards to increased productivity.
The financial impact of workplace anxiety and stress accounts for somewhere between 150 – 300 billion dollars in lost productivity (Sansavita 2015). The approximation is wide due to the difficulty in determining absenteeism caused by anxiety symptoms versus an anxiety-induced illness. In addition to employees reluctant to report to an employer that they are struggling, anxiety and stress tend to manifest somatic complaints that can be confused for other ailments. Individuals suffering from anxiety disorders have more than 1.5 times the risk of being absent for at least 2 weeks than those without anxiety, and more than double the risk of having poor work performance (American Psychiatric Association 2019). Given the fact that 40% of employees experience persistent stress or excessive anxiety in their daily lives, it’s no wonder the financial and productivity losses are so profound.
Individuals who are functioning through their workdays while their anxiety symptoms are at high levels experience issues such as lack of concentration, cloudy judgment, poor time management and avoidance of tasks. The toll is also emotional in nature with anxiety affecting workplace performance, relationships with co-workers and peers, quality of work and relationships with superiors (Anxiety and Depression Association of America Survey)
Less than one-quarter of people with anxiety disorders seek treatment (American Psychiatric Association, 2019), and 85% of people polled by Business Insider in September of 2018 still think that there is a stigma attached to bringing up their mental health at work. The fear is that self-reporting their struggles will cause them to be branded in some way. Even employees who are intentional in seeking help for their anxiety and depression fear that their transparency will cost them a promotion or cause them to miss out on other big opportunities. These beliefs mean that a large population of the workforce are ‘walking wounded’ and missing work due to their anxiety, stress, depression, and fear of being ‘found out’. This is all a perfect storm of lost productivity.
As anxiety, depression and their symptoms begin to garner more attention and the emphasis on effective treatment comes to the forefront, the effects of anxiety, stress, and depression on productivity in the workplace is an issue that is being explored in earnest. While many Fortune 500 Companies and startups alike begin to advocate for their employees to pursue a more robust work/life balance to decrease stress and anxiety, other companies are still trying to wrap their heads around the problem. Like most mental health professionals, we believe that workplace anxiety needs to be normalized, destigmatized and dealt with for what it is, an aspect of human survival that every individual should strive to coexist with instead of fight against.
A majority of studies dealing with anxiety, stress and work productivity emphasizes the need for accessible and competent mental health care access as a part of company policy. If changes are not made in regard to mental health care for employees, the World Health Organization predicts that an estimated 12 billion workdays will be lost to untreated anxiety and depression by 2030, resulting in a global loss of 925 billion dollars (Luxton, 2016) While these numbers are mind-blowing, the upside is that for every one dollar invested in treating anxiety and depression, there is a four-dollar return for the economy. Scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety would cost 147 billion dollars over the next 15 years, BUT it would yield a 5% improvement in workforce participation, representing a 399 billion dollar return on investment. Advocating for mental health care for employees in the form of EAP, reimbursement programs for employees who seek outside treatment (Starbucks Canada offers employees up to $5000 in reimbursement for therapy visits!), seminars, workshops, and other continuing education forums, is nothing but a sound investment for any business.
It has been our experience that when companies, universities, and other institutions work to destigmatize anxiety, stress, and depression, return on investment is immediate. In less than a decade, we have been privileged to see the utilization of mental health care increase in medical students by 160%. This remarkable increase is due in large part to faculties and administrators training incoming students on the importance of ‘care for the caregiver’ and providing resources as soon as possible. By changing the culture and the stigma surrounding mental health, companies and schools are empowering individuals to take control of their well-being which will show up in a multitude of ways in their work life.
What makes us unique at Anxiety Resource Center, LLC is that we can tailor treatment to the individual, as well as to a classroom or workplace setting. We have spent the past 20 years working closely with groups of varying sizes and from a multitude of different areas, to help them understand what anxiety is, as well as what it isn’t. We recognize the need to teach people multiple techniques to use at the onset of their anxiety and depression symptoms as well as helping them understand why their symptoms present the way that they do. Our passion is in helping as many people as we can in a professional, educational way that is also relatable. Our treatment is backed by sound scientific principles that we have been able to fine-tune to meet the needs of everyone who chooses to work with us.
Empowering individuals to understand their symptoms and how the ways they manifest affects the world around them is life-changing. Supervisors and employees must learn how to communicate to and with one another in transparent and productive ways in regards to mental health. It’s also important for companies to normalize these issues and provide opportunities for intervention. A healthy workplace is not just one where you are able to avoid flu outbreaks or experience minimal injuries. A healthy workplace is one where each and every employee feels valued and safe as well as encouraged to do whatever they need to do to stay well mentally.