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Mental health training for managers can help improve employee well-being, suggests study

Mental health training for managers can help improve employee well-being, suggests study

Employee well-being has taken on an entirely different meaning in recent times. It is no longer enough to offer weekly wellness initiatives or deliver annual health lectures. Companies have started incorporating comprehensive employee health promotion measures as part of their core strategies, especially since wellness programs are directly linked to higher work productivity and significant cost savings related to insurance and absenteeism. However, manager support is critical for the successful implementation of such programs. Many managers feel ill-equipped to deal with employee sick leaves, especially if they relate to mental illnesses.

Basic mental health training for managers can significantly improve employee mental well-being, suggested a landmark, world-first study published in the Lancet Psychiatry in October 2017. Lead researchers at the Black Dog Institute and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, found an 18 percent reduction in work-related sick leave among employees whose manager had received a basic, four-hour mental health training program called RESPECT. On the other hand, control group employees, whose managers did not receive mental health training, reported a 10 percent increase in work-related sick leave during the same period.

Emphasizing the importance of mental health training for managers, lead author Samuel Harvey said, “Managers are in a unique position to help employees with their mental health, yet many can feel reluctant to raise mental health concerns without formal training.” According to him, the findings were particularly relevant for frontline emergency service workers who regularly operated under stressful conditions, which can directly cause or aggravate mental illnesses.

Workplace anxiety affects employees’ professional and personal lives

Nearly 40 million American adults (18 percent) suffer from anxiety disorders, making it the most common mental illness in the U.S. A past survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) found that although employees self-reported high levels of anxiety, symptoms and usage of prescription medicines, rates of diagnosis remained significantly lower. Workplace stress and anxiety impacted employee performance, quality of work, and relationships with co-workers, peers and superiors. The stress carried over into their personal life and impacted personal relationships as well, especially with spouses.

According to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, part of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Foundation, an average of 4.6 workdays are lost due to anxiety disorders per month, while an average of 18.1 workdays are lost every three months. Past research by the Harvard Business School (HBS) highlighted that in the U.S., workplace stress, as a component of high healthcare costs, has not been sufficiently emphasized. Additional costs due to workplace stress have been estimated to range between $125 and $190 billion annually, representing 5 to 8 percent of American health care spending.

Managers can be more active in promoting employee mental health

According to Harvey, a large number of present-day employees are working longer and with greater flexibility than those from previous generations. While there are positive indications from the study that managers can assume a more active role in promoting employee mental health, further research is needed to investigate if such behavioral changes find application in other work settings also.

Managers can help in creating a workplace culture which will encourage employees to share their mental health concerns. They can also regularly check-in with staff regarding their well-being and mental health. It is important to initiate a dialog in an appropriate setting without making assumptions regarding employees’ ability to do their job. If possible, managers can make workplace adjustments and give flexibility to employees to manage their mental health in the most optimal manner.

Dealing with anxiety

If you or someone you know is experiencing work-related anxiety, contact the Recover Mental Health for complete information on anxiety disorder treatment. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-593-2339 or chat online with one of our mental health specialists to know more about the best anxiety disorder treatment centers in your vicinity.

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