Nancy called in sick to work again today. Last week, her car wouldn’t start. This week, she says she has the flu. But in reality, Nancy feels invisible at work. She dreads the thought of sharing workspace with coworkers. Everyone shares things in common, laughs at department jokes and lunches together. If she could be honest, Nancy would admit to feeling too lonely and anxious to come to work.
Half of American adults feel lonely. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults. And many feel isolated on a regular basis. These feelings can have serious consequences to your mental health. They can harm your physical health, sleep and concentration. Feelings of exclusion affect both attendance and productivity in the workplace.
In a recent survey from Cigna, Americans reported that working too much or not enough contributed to feelings of loneliness. This result makes the workplace a noteworthy point of concentration. Loneliness often leads to mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and addiction. Mental illness is one of the leading causes of workplace disability in America.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says depression is the reason for over 200 million lost workdays each year. This costs the United States $44 billion in lost productivity.
More than half of Americans have admitted to coming to work despite experiencing symptoms of mental illness. This is presenteeism – a state of mind in which you soldier through your feelings to get the job done. But productivity of both the individual and their team suffers in the process.
Among those diagnosed with a mental health issue, one in four employees have come to work with suicidal thoughts.
“Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan, similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity”, says U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. In other words, this is serious.
Many studies have shown loneliness and bullying linked to increased risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease and premature death.
A recent study from the Netherlands concluded that those who feel isolated have a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Women who feel lonely were at 112% increased risk while 42% of lonely men were at a higher risk. Also, men who lived alone had a 94% higher chance of having the disease. A woman’s size of social network and proximity to family and friends had a significant impact on her health.
Prevention methods for diabetes include increased physical activity and a modified diet. But mental health and well-being are also integral to successful disease management.
Lack of sleep is another contributing factor towards feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Those who get quality sleep are more likely to face the day with a positive mindset.
Reportedly, younger generations are lonelier than the older generations in America. This is due to several factors, including mindless use of social media. Spending excessive amounts of time on line can lead to increased feelings of isolation. Researchers note that spending too much time on your phone leaves less time for in-person interaction. This leads to anxiety for those who feel like they are missing out on leading a more full life.
In light of the survey’s findings, employers are in a unique position to forge a path to wellness. There are many things that you, as an employer, can do to ensure that your employees feel like they are a valued member of your inclusive workplace.
What You Can Do
Your Corporate Wellness Program can make all the difference to the well-being of your employees.
Talk about Mental Health: As an employer, you need to ensure that your employees feel safe talking about their mental health at work. Encourage senior staff to lead by example and open up a dialogue about mental well-being.
Participation: Take part in annual Mental Health initiatives. May is Mental Health Awareness month and World Mental Health Day is October 10th. Use these opportunities to start conversations in the workplace. Highlight all available resources.
Accessibility: The biggest barrier to mental health in the workplace is that half of Americans don’t know resources are available. This is due, in large part, to the stigma surrounding mental illness. Employees fear discrimination or losing their job. Make sure that your entire workforce is aware of EAP programs and how to access them. Keep these programs in the forefront, through company newsletters, posters, e-mail alerts, etc.
Education: Take the time to teach senior staff about the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Host a Mental Health First Aid workshop for management personnel. Teach them how to accommodate employees who need help.
Be Flexible: The next time you hold a meeting, talk to your employees about working from home options. This will not only help to prevent presenteeism in the workplace but nurtures a work-life balance for those who may be struggling.
Collect Feedback: Send out short surveys and ask what your employees are taking away from available resources. What is missing? Include this in a performance review discussion. By asking your employees what they feel they are getting from your programs, you can create even stronger ones.
Research shows that employees are nine times more likely to stay with a company that cares about their well-being.
Many of your employees spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their families. Make the time for inclusivity and fostering corporate culture. It will not only benefit the employees themselves but your bottom line too.
Midland Health recognizes all approaches to positive employee health. Visit their website to request a free quote. Learn how you can create a successful wellness program for your company today!