New research released by a UK healthcare provider finds that over one third of managers would have difficulty identifying mental health problems among their staff, People Management’s Emily Burt reported on Thursday:
The report from Bupa also found that a similar proportion (30 per cent) of those with line manager duties would not know what to do if somebody in their team did have issues with mental health. … Research published this week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed that people in the UK are among the most depressed in the developed world, thanks in part to job dissatisfaction. According to the data, 10 per cent of 25 to 64-year-olds in the UK are suffering from depression, ranking the UK in joint seventh place out of 25 European and Scandinavian countries.
Mental health concerns are also having a growing impact on the British workforce: A study published this month by NHS Digital showed that the number of UK employees who had taken sick leave or been put on restricted duties due to mental and behavioral health problems had increased substantially in the past two years, with these issues accounting for nearly a third of all fit notes issued since late 2014.
Dennis Yip/Flickr/Public Domain
In a paper last year on the disappearance of many prime-age men from the US workforce, Princeton economist Alan Krueger presented the unsettling finding that 44 percent of working-age men who were not in the labor force reported taking pain medication on a regular basis, and two-thirds of these men were taking prescription pain medication. While improvements in video game technology may be contributing to these men’s lower workforce participation by making long-term unemployment more bearable, Krueger wrote, their high rates of poor health and use of narcotic painkillers are much more disconcerting.
In the Fall 2017 edition of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Krueger publishes an update of that research with new data, homing in on the impact of opioid epidemic on the labor market. That impact, he finds, is even more significant than previously thought, accounting for some 20 percent of the decrease in men’s labor force participation between 1999 and 2015, and 25 percent of the decrease among women, Brookings editor Fred Dews explains:
Krueger’s paper suggests that, though much of the decline can be attributed to an aging population and other trends that pre-date the Great Recession (for example, increased school enrollment of younger workers), an increase in opioid prescription rates might also play an important role in the decline, and undoubtedly compounds the problem as many people who are out of the labor force find it difficult to return to work because of reliance on pain medication.
A new report from the RAND Corporation details the findings of the American Working Conditions Survey (AWCS), a wide-ranging survey fielded in 2015 by RAND in conjunction with scholars from Harvard Medical School and UCLA that paints a troubling picture of the state of the American workplace as “very physically and emotionally taxing, both for workers themselves and their families.” Some of the key findings include:
- The clear majority of Americans (eight out of ten) have steady and predictable work throughout the year, but many fewer work the same number of hours on a day-to-day basis (54 percent).
- Nearly three-fourths of Americans report either intense or repetitive physical exertion on the job at least one-quarter of the time.
- More than one-half of Americans report exposure to unpleasant and potentially hazardous working conditions.
- Nearly one in five American workers are exposed to a hostile or threatening social environment at work.
- Most Americans (two-thirds) frequently work at high speeds or under tight deadlines, and one in four perceives that they have too little time to do their job.
Furthermore, only 38 percent said their job offered good prospects for advancement. On the bright side, however, 58 percent of respondents described their boss as supportive, 56 percent said they had very good friends at work, and four out of five said their job met at least one definition of “meaningful” most of the time. Large majorities said their jobs involved solving unforeseen problems, applying their own ideas, engaging in complex tasks, and learning new things.
In a press release, RAND goes into more detail about what these findings mean for the US workforce:
A survey released last week found that many employers may be underestimating the impact of mental health and substance abuse problems on their workforce. Amanda Eisenberg reports at Employee Benefit News:
In the “Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits” survey of 247 U.S. employers conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, more than three in five (64%) organizations said that less than 30% of their workforce is affected by mental health or substance abuse issues. About one quarter of employers said they were unsure if their employees were impacted by these issues at all. In fact, about one in five American adults suffer from mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and one in 10 American adults suffer from substance abuse, according to the Open Society Institute.
The survey found that 91 percent of employers offered an employee assistance program (EAP) that provides employees access to assessment, counseling, or mental health services, but few employees are taking advantage of these programs:
The number of employees using an employee assistance program make up between 1% and 6% of the workforce, according to the study. A smaller percentage of employers offer wellness programs with a mental health or substance abuse component (38%) or a stress-management program (23%), according to the survey. While an employee might suffer from one or more conditions, not all conditions are covered under an EAP.
Progressive organizations continue to invest in wellness or wellbeing programs that meet workforce needs through a more targeted but still extensive portfolio of features. CEB’s assessment of employee preferences regarding these programs shows that employees expect their employer to address all their wellbeing needs, and most employers do: 83 percent of polled organizations said they were offering emotional and/or mental wellbeing programs. Emotional wellbeing has become a “traditional” element of the wellbeing portfolio, and in turn, employees are less forgiving in the absence of such an offering.
“Telemedicine” is a big new thing for employers these days and only getting bigger, no matter what the skeptics tell you. Some organizations are exploring its potential for mental health services as well; Mark McGraw at HRE takes a look at the emerging field of “telemental health”:
Healthcare law firm Epstein Becker Green recently conducted a state-by-state analysis of legal issues related to telemental health, finding that new interactive audio and video platforms, computer programs and mobile applications are “driving [a] boom” in telemental health, with a “significant increase” in mobile applications related to mental health. The Epstein Becker Green report cites recent estimates suggesting that 6 percent of all mobile health applications developed are focused on providing mental health services to users, with another 11 percent devoted to offering stress management services.
The remote nature of telemental health makes it ideal for many workplaces, says Rene Quashie, senior counsel in Epstein Becker Green’s healthcare and life sciences practice, and one of the study’s authors. …Still, it’s fair to say that a stigma still exists around those dealing with such issues.
Telemental health, however, may provide needed encouragement to employees who are hesitant to seek help from their employers in confronting those issues, says Amy Bergner, the Washington-based senior director of healthcare and benefits at PwC. “I think it’s probably a question of comfort for some, because maybe a person is more comfortable [addressing mental health issues] with a remote provider,” says Bergner.
Wall Street Journal reporter Rachel Emma Silverman highlights some examples of employers that have already adopted this technology:
At the Harvard Business Review, Influence & Co. president Kelsey Meyer discusses how her organization overhauled its mental health policy to reflect a genuine commitment to employee wellbeing:
First, I partnered with our director of human resources to discuss the most important elements for this policy to include. Above all, we wanted to acknowledge that mental illness affects everyone differently, to use inclusive language, and to ensure all employees feel supported by the new plan. To do that, invite employees to directly communicate with you their ideas for a mental health policy. Members of my team started sharing their ideas with me last year after we returned from our company retreat, where my discussing my family’s history of mental illness during a short team exercise opened the door for discussions on the topic. Including some of your employees in this process, whether through an activity at your next retreat or during a private meeting, can give you valuable insight into exactly how you can reach the goals you define.
With goals and employee feedback in mind, your HR director should gain a frame of reference by researching the language and accommodations other companies’ policies include. From there, she should dig into what mental health organizations recommend for supporting people living with mental illnesses. This step is especially important if, like my company, you’ve never had a comprehensive mental health policy on record. Even if you do, regular research keeps you up-to-date on the latest from mental health experts and leading organizations to ensure that the policy’s language and accommodations best support your employees.
Our own research here at CEB, as well as research from our partner firm The Advisory Board, reinforces just how important mental health care really is.