How mental wellness can take aim at sick leave

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Holding step challenges and encouraging employees to schedule regular check-ups seem like the easy way for employers to check off the wellness program category on their benefits offering list, but in working with clients to develop an overall health and wellness strategy, advisers should note that the physical problems for employees may lie in the person’s mental state.

By 2030, the world will have lost 12 billion workdays due to depression and anxiety disorders, an analysis conducted by the World Health Organization found. This adds up to 50 million years of work. This staggering number puts annual loss to the global economy at $925 billion.

Mental wellness programs have seen a 20% increase in user requests for comparable work-life services in 2014 compared to 2013, according to TriNet. With increased assistance for mental wellness it is expected that businesses could see increased productivity, reduced illness leave, and attract and retain talent.

Also see: Why (and how) employees should meditate at work.”

Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant for EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants, is working with clients to fix this problem by addressing some of the stigmas around EAPs and helping clients build the self-esteem of their employees.

“We look at unique users that are taking advantage of [EAPs] to increase the utilization of these programs,” Schmidt says. “We help [employers] improve their employees’ moral and improve their outlook on themselves.”

Schmidt says team building and team bonding exercises are great ways to reduce the number of sick days employees with depression or anxiety take when dealing with particularly difficult days.

“The more people feel like they are being wanted at the worksite and feeling like a community, the more they will feel comfortable with being there,” Schmidt says. “I think we will start seeing a lot more EAPs onsite or in a large call center for larger groups to make them more acceptable and people will be more willing to participate in them.”

Colleen Fairbanks, director of behavioral health for Interactive Health, says mental wellness should be considered just as important as physical health. She adds that wellness should not start from the neck down.

“Health is health is health, so if you are truly interested in benefiting your employees’ health it just makes sense to include the emotional health component,” Fairbanks says. “Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, so if you are not targeting any interventions or providing any resources around that you are really doing your employees a disservice.”

Also see: Stress taking its toll in the workplace.”
Fairbanks notes that one in five people will be diagnosed with an emotional health issue, but it is up to the other four people to take a pledge to help the one who is struggling with depression or anxiety.

“Making sure that we have leaders that are well educated is a great way to start reducing the stigmas on EAPs,” Fairbanks says. “It would be the same thing if someone needed different accommodations at their desk because they have carpel tunnel syndrome. You would obviously seek out the right accommodations to make sure that person was comfortable.”

Schmidt says that just because a potential candidate might suffer from depression or anxiety, it should not deter an employer from hiring that person.

“If they have the right skill set, the right knowledge and the right experience they still are an asset,” Schmidt says. “If [the candidate] has the right environment, the right supervisors and the right team that individual is still going to be a very big asset to the company.”

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Mental health Mental health benefits Wellness Wellness programs EAPs