Mandy Muchnick unpacks the business implications of ignoring mental health issues in the workplace.
In today’s fast-paced and demanding corporate landscape, businesses are increasingly realising the importance of employee well-being. While efforts to promote physical health have been a priority for decades, mental health has only recently gained the recognition it deserves. However, much attention still needs to be shone on just how important of an agenda item this is and why mental wellness cannot simply be a checkbox exercise. The cost of inaction − that is, not investing in effective solutions for employees − is escalating, making this not just the right thing to do but also something that is good for business.
So, why should CFOs put mental health on their agenda? In a true accountant-type answer, it’s in the numbers. Here are some of the staggering stats on why mental health should be brought to the boardroom by the CFO:
- The cost of low productivity and performance − Employees with untreated mental health issues miss an average of 32 workdays per year due to absenteeism or presenteeism (Johns Hopkins). Otherwise stated, in South Africa, 14,5% of work hours are lost to poor mental health. Payroll x 14,5% = a material business problem.
- Increased retention and loyalty − Employees who feel their company supports mental health are five times more likely to feel engaged at work (Mind Share Partners). This leads to higher job satisfaction, stronger loyalty, and lower turnover. The business impact of an employee leaving is typically 7−9 months of their salary. Retaining your top talent, especially in the current talent war, saves significant recruitment and training costs.
- Improved company culture and morale − Employees who say their company supports well-being are 59% more likely to recommend it as a good place to work (Gallup). This boosts morale and creates a supportive work environment.
- Increased safety − Employees struggling with mental health issues may have impaired focus and judgement, leading to more on-the-job accidents. Proactive support improves safety, which cannot be ignored in our local context.
Why current solutions just don’t cut it
You may at this point be thinking ‘but we already have an EAP’. The current landscape largely consists of solutions focused on reactive care − these solutions are indeed important and necessary but are typically only accessed at specific moments of distress such as when someone may be struggling from specific trauma, depression, anxiety or burnout. These are however outcomes and unfortunately, these solutions are often only accessed when your struggles have escalated along the severity curve. The questions you should be asking yourself are: What about the day-to-day stresses that result in these outcomes? Where do you go for those? How do I, as a leader, support my people in a proactive manner?
There is no point in waiting for people to get sick before helping them. Mental Health 3.0 is about being proactive and predictive. Providing employees with tools that allow them to think about their mental health in the same ways as their physical health (ie, proactively) needs to be on the agenda. Proactive mental healthcare solutions should be seen as a fundamental pillar for the organisation’s long-term success and financial well-being. By championing these initiatives, CFOs can create a more resilient, productive and compassionate workplace, benefiting both employees and the bottom line.
Mandy Muchnick, CFO of Panda Health