Mental Well-Being Has Workplace Value

by Jeff Kirke

Creating a work environment that fosters employee productivity is forefront in the minds of many employers I work with in the Phoenix area. While productivity is important, how employers approach it can be different. A holistic approach to employees and their well-being can help create a more productive workforce. Mental well-being plays a significant role in an individual’s ability to manage emotions and stress that can fuel unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary, inactive lifestyle.

In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress, 75 percent of employees today have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago, around 50 percent of American workers say they need help managing workplace stress, and more than half say they spend nearly 12 hours a day on work-related duties and skip lunch because of job demands. Additionally, 34 percent reported problems sleeping at night and 12 percent have called in sick solely because of job stress.

To put some more numbers behind that, the Integrated Benefits Institute (which represents major U.S. employers and business coalitions) says poor health costs the U.S. economy $576 billion a year. Of that, 39 percent (or $227 billion) is from “lost productivity” from employee absenteeism due to illness or what researchers call “presenteeism” — when employees report to work but illness keeps them from performing at their best. The American Institute of Stress says employees calling in sick due to stress has nearly tripled from 1996 to 2000, and is estimated to cost employers $660 per worker per year.

I think we can all agree that no employer wants to lose that kind of money or productivity. And all employers should want their employees to come to work happy, healthy and able to provide their best work. It’s vital to address both the mental and physical aspects of wellness to truly improve the whole health of a person. It’s obvious that the issues themselves are intertwined, so the workplace culture should encourage maintaining health habits in both.

So, how do you do that? Well, there are a number of ways to encourage employees to take care of themselves. Employee wellness initiatives are no doubt an important part of that. I read an article several months back in Forbes that provided the following 10 tips:

  • Provide healthy office snacks
  • Get your team on their feet
  • Launch a step competition
  • Practice gratitude
  • Make your office pet-friendly
  • Sponsor guided meditation
  • Host a cooking class
  • Bring the outdoors inside
  • Host an anxiety workshop
  • Host a comedy show

Some of these may be a bit beyond what an individual workplace would feel comfortable doing, but the thought behind each of them ties right back into employee wellness — physically and mentally.

Holmes Murphy’s role in helping companies help their employees with both mental and physical well-being comes in the form of ACAP Health’s (subsidiary of Holmes Murphy) Naturally Slim program. This program has resulted in many success stories from participating companies, which is about retraining one’s brain and one’s body and taking care of oneself above anything else. The following results prove employee programs can produce a healthier workforce: With Naturally Slim, 55 percent of participants reversed their diabetes risk and 7 percent of participants reversed their metabolic syndrome.

The physical and mental health of a business’s employees really does impact its bottom line, so businesses should make sure to mind both.  

Jeff Kirke is vice president of employee benefits at the Scottsdale office of Holmes Murphy, a privately-held insurance brokerage whose focus is providing the cumulative knowledge and experience that make insurance and businesses work better


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