The interconnection of mental well-being and productivity Part 1

Intangible criteria such as feelings and emotions have never intended to be considered in defining organizations’ performance indicators. Subjects as the critical importance of mental health in the life of any organization have been -practically- completely ignored.

Nonetheless, indicators show a preoccupying picture that suggests we need to better prioritize and pay attention to the significance of mental well-being in the workplace. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300 million people globally suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability, with many of these people also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. A recent study led by this Organization estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

Moreover, a recent Gallup global report on emotions provides with a snapshot of the world’s emotional state; noting how stress, worry, sadness and anger are attaining all-time highs, and how organizations are facing an employee stress and burnout crisis.

Indicators that may be a sign of how workplace issues such as poor communication and management practices, lack of goals clarity, toxic environments, inflexible and long working hours, a demand for immediacy, amongst others, appear to be a risk in affecting not only employees’ mental well-being, but also and subsequently organizations bottom line.

Even though, awareness about the importance of well-being is growing and we can see more organizations emphasizing and having programs on wellness, most of them focus on the physical side, prioritizing nutrition, sleep and exercising; and while the link between physical and mental wellness is undeniable, more specific actions seem to be needed to better take care of the mental well-being in the workplace.

The WHO advises that mental health interventions should be delivered as part of an integrated health and well-being strategy and has carried out cost-benefit research on strategies to address mental health points toward net benefit, estimating -in a recent study- that for every US$1 put into organizations mental health programs, there is a return of US$4 in improved health and productivity.

This appears to be a complex and growing problem that needs not only awareness but a more comprehensive approach looking for strategies at:

  1. The policy level: Having the development of governmental legislation as an important element of achieving a healthy workplace as recently highlighted by the World Economic Forum. We can be aware of what countries as the UK have done in this regard. (Part 2)
  2. The organizational level: Learning from organizations that have taken actions to promote better mental health for their employees. (Part 3)
  3. The individual level: Developing our own habits that allow us to have focus and dedication to our mental well-being. (Part 4)