Across the business world, workforce leaders are coming to the realization that a more comprehensive approach to corporate health and wellness may be needed. Companies already care a great deal about the well-being of their employees – through their commitment to diet, exercise and disease screening, they’re doing everything they can to keep their people healthy physically. But there’s another aspect they might be overlooking.

What about mental health? In their rush to keep employees looking good, companies don’t want to forget about how people feel. It’s equally important. Mental health issues are often subtle and imperceptible, but if gone untreated, they can have serious adverse effects on the performance of a workforce.

Employee Benefit News recently explored this problem. The news source drew upon data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which defined optimal mental health as the ability to “cope with the normal stresses of life,” “work productively and fruitfully” and “make a contribution to his or her community.” The organization estimated that only 17 percent of adults are solidly in this camp, while 22.1 percent are suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder. The rest lie somewhere in the middle.

Depression is the most common type of mental health disorder that holds people back from doing their jobs, but there are others. The World Health Organization has found that stress and anxiety are also common issues. Leonard Sanicola, senior benefits practice leader at WorldatWork, said companies need to be aware.

“Let us be cognizant of the importance of optimal mental and emotional health to the overall well-being of our employees,” Sanicola advised, according to EBN. “Doing so will positively impact the physical well-being of our employees and will, also, greatly improve workforce engagement levels, reduce healthcare costs, reduce employee absenteeism and presenteeism and ultimately lead to improved total health and productivity.”

Here are three things companies can do:

Empathize with employees
The first step is a mental one – workforce leaders need to understand that many of their employees are dealing with tough situations in their lives. Many mental health issues are brought on by real-life struggles such as death in the family, divorce or trouble with children. Employers need to be cognizant of these issues and treat their workers with dignity and respect during tough times.

Make EAPs available
In numerous situations where mental health issues arise, having an employee assistance program in place is a great way to help people overcome their problems. EAPs are often able to provide counseling and other resources that should improve people’s overall mental health. Simply instituting such a program is a profound step toward showing employees you care about their overall well-being.

Promote corporate resources
There are numerous instances in the corporate setting where a business does have an important resource in place – such as an EAP – but employees simply aren’t aware of it. For this reason, it’s beneficial for companies to remind their workers about the availability of programs that can help them. A simple email or corporate memo can be sufficient for spreading the word.

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