Mental health in the workplace is costing Canadian organizations a lot of money and much of it is unnecessary as intervention through employee assistance programs (EAPs) translates into improved employee mental health and higher productivity, as well as a 25-per-cent reduction in costs due to lost productivity, according to a study by Morneau Shepell.
The study collected data to measure four specific outcomes: general health status, mental health status, productivity and absenteeism. Some of its findings included:
• Employees rated their mental health 15 per cent higher after receiving EAP support.
• EAP intervention resulted in a 34-per-cent reduction in costs related to lost productivity.
• Before EAP intervention, decreased productivity and absence were costing organizations almost $20,000 per employee per year.
"Research shows that workers with depressive disorders, in particular, can have almost four times more health-related lost productive time than those who do not suffer from these problems," said Karen Seward, senior vice-president of business development and marketing at Morneau Shepell. "The toll on the bottom line is huge."
For the study, EAP Improves Health Status and Productivity, and Demonstrates a Positive ROI, Morneau Shepell gathered information from 53,224 EAP client cases that opened and closed during 2010. The data was collected through a survey and involved responses from both employees and dependents covered by the EAP.
Morneau Shepell also sponsored the Conference Board of Canada report Building Mentally Healthy Workplaces: Perspectives of Canadian Workers and Front-Line Managers. It said 44 per cent of employees surveyed had experienced a mental health issue but only 26 per cent felt their supervisor effectively managed mental health issues and 44 per cent of managers had no training in how to manage employees with mental health issues.
"People with mental health issues are uncomfortable at work and it affects their job,” said Seward. “However, most managers have little or no training in how to manage employees with these problems. There is definitely a lot of room for education and improvement.”
In addition to EAPs, a number of tools are available to assist organizations, she said. They include workshops about mental health in the workplace; a disability program that focuses on identification, support and access to mental health care; a drug analysis and sustainability index that provides trends, benchmarks and best practices in mental health; and manager support.
Organizations should also develop a more strategic partnership with their EAP provider to better realize the return on their investment, said the Morneau Shepell study. The provider can recommend strategies to optimize the use of the EAP as a preventative measure to save costs down the line and make recommendations around the strategic use of EAP services to support an organization's health priorities.
Employers should also consider a comprehensive, strategic approach to absence management. To promote sustained attendance at work, and prevent downstream costs and consequences, they should shift from stand-alone absence administration programs to attendance management strategies aligned with the company's business objectives, cost management goals and strategies related to employee engagement and retention, said the study.
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