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October 7, 2021

10 Ways Your Employees’ Mental Health Affects Productivity and What A Corporate Wellness Program Can Do About It

As a business owner or HR professional in Malaysia, you are deeply concerned with productivity. 

And rightfully so. For without good productivity your bottom line is affected, you have to lay off workers, or worse yet, close your business entirely.

Historically, physical health has been a significant measure of whether an individual is capable of being adequately productive at a job... 

Can they lift the heavy load? 

Can they be on their feet all day? 

Can they type data fast enough?

But in a world with ever increasing mental health concerns, particularly amidst a global pandemic, mental health has to be considered when it comes to productivity. Unfortunately, mental health disorders are often hidden and can go undetected for long periods of time, all the while, a suffering employee is struggling to keep up with daily tasks and to perform optimally at their job. 

Now, perhaps you are asking yourself…

How do mental health concerns affect productivity in the workplace and what can be done about it?

I’m glad you asked! 

Let’s look at 10 ways that mental health concerns affect productivity (the problem) followed by how a corporate wellness program (employee assistance program) can address the issue and greatly benefit your Malaysian business (the solution)!

10 Ways That Employee Mental Health Affects Productivity

#1: Mental Health Concerns Affect Employee Engagement

The Problem:

When employees are coping with a mental health condition, they will most likely be less engaged in the task at hand, as their mind is preoccupied with their personal struggle.

According to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH), mental illness in employees was associated with being 6.7 times more likely to be psychologically distressed which the study characterizes as “physical and mental symptoms associated with a state of emotional suffering,” a condition that can have significant impact on employee performance in the workplace.

Another study looking specifically at work engagement among Malaysian employees found psychological distress was one of three factors associated with poorer work engagement. 

The Solution:

A corporate wellness program, or employee assistance program (EAP), can provide mental health awareness training to make employees, and employers, more aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders as well as provide access to necessary treatment. 

Early intervention is always best so if an employee can receive the services they need before the problem worsens, the individual flourishes and less productivity is lost. 

#2: Stress Affects Employee Absenteeism

The Problem:

If employees are under stress, particularly if this stress is exacerbated or caused by their demands in the workplace, they may be more likely to request time off. Psychological distress can easily manifest in physical symptoms which may lead to the need to take more sick days.

A BMC Public Health study found that mental health, specifically stress, was one of the greatest influences of absenteeism. 

When an employee is absent productivity is either 1) halted or 2) a temporary replacement is called in who is likely less productive than a regular employee. 

The Solution:

When stress is well managed, however, employees are more likely to be present and engaged in their work and work at full productivity. 

A corporate wellness program can assist employees by providing counseling services and strategies to manage stress. 

Other benefits of an employee assistance program in Malaysia include access and/or referrals to needed services in order to address the root cause of employee stress (e.g. access to legal counsel). 

#3: Stress Leads to Greater Workplace Accidents 

The Problem:

When you attempt a task while worrying about an unrelated concern, you cannot possibly give full attention to the task at hand. 

It is difficult for employees to perform optimally if a concern is vying for their mental capacity. Stress from personal lives or the workplace leads to divided attention and reduced focus. Not only will this inhibit productivity but it inevitably leads to a greater number of accidents in the workplace. 

A study in WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation suggests that 60-80% of workplace accidents are stress related. 

The Solution:

By addressing the underlying concern - stress - with the services of a corporate wellness program, we can mitigate the risk of workplace accidents. 

#4: Reduced Focus Due to Stress Impacts Productivity

The Problem:

Not only does divided focus due to stress impact the likelihood of a workplace accident, it also lowers productivity. A lack of attention and concentration will negatively impact an employee’s ability to accomplish tasks in a timely and sufficient manner.  

As previously mentioned, stress leads to the need for additional time off. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employee absence accounts for a 36 percent reduction in productivity. 

Stress, whether it is from an employee’s personal life or related to the workplace directly, will inevitably reduce productivity whether it be from the employee’s absence or from a lack of focus while present. 

The Solution:

A corporate wellness program can either provide an employee with strategies to manage stress or work to address the underlying root of the stress. Access to a myriad of counseling services are available through an employee assistance program in Malaysia and would allow an employee to confront stressors directly. 

#5: Mental Health Concerns Lower Retention Rates 

The Problem:

As a business owner or HR director, you know that it is difficult to retain top talent in the workplace. 

Not only do managers lose productivity each time they have to train a new hire, but it takes time for a new employee to learn the ropes and become proficient and highly productive at their job. 

So how can you reduce turnover in your business and ensure your top talent stays on the job?

Job satisfaction! 

We know that mismanaged stress or concern over personal matters does not lead to job satisfaction. Work becomes even more stressful when employees are concerned about how their stress is impacting their job performance. 

The Solution:

Not only does a corporate wellness program provide employees with the support they need so that stress, personal issues, and workplace conflict is managed appropriately, but it also provides the assurance that their employer cares about them as an individual. 

Now that will lead to greater job satisfaction and inevitably higher employee retention!

#6: Stress Increases Workplace Conflict

The Problem:

A significant driver of stress in the workplace is conflict between employees and conflict between employees and supervisors. 

We know the impact that stress has on employee productivity so managing conflict is a necessary component of any healthy and productive workplace.   

The Solution:

As part of a corporate wellness program, a trained professional can be the outside expert in how to handle these conflicts and even how to prevent a recurrence of similar conflict. 

An EAP provider, such as that of Solace Wellness, can even provide training to help leaders manage employees in a way that prevents workplace conflict as much as possible. 

#7: Struggles with Addiction 

The Problem:

Substance abuse and addiction go hand in hand with mental health. It may surprise you that most individuals who struggle with a substance addiction are employed. That means you may be the first to see the early signs and symptoms of substance abuse among one of your employees. 

Here are seven effects of addiction in the workplace that should lead business owners and HR professionals to not only be concerned about the health and wellbeing of the individual, but of the health of their business as well.

  1. Increased Absenteeism 
  2. Decreased Productivity
  3. Additional Healthcare Costs 
  4. Workplace Accidents 
  5. Risk of Legal Issues
  6. Increased Workplace Conflict
  7. Lower Retention

The Solution:

A corporate wellness program provides services and resources for employees to cope with personal problems that are likely affecting workplace performance and productivity, including substance abuse and addiction. 

Your company may not have the bandwidth to hire professionals to provide counseling services or treatment for addiction but contracting with an outside company is a great solution!

#8: Mismanaged Mental Health Concerns Increase Healthcare Cost

The Problem:

If your business provides health insurance benefits to your employees, you are already spending money on medical expenses for your employees. In general, health insurance premiums are calculated based on average medical care usage. 

If your employees are struggling with stress and/or other mental health conditions that are affecting their physical health, it is likely that the cost of medical insurance is going to continue to rise for your company. 

The Solution:

The best thing you can do for both the individual and your business is to help address the underlying concerns. 

You may be concerned that the cost of a corporate wellness program will outweigh the benefits but let me show you what the data suggests. 

According to the Employee Assistance Trade Association, an EAP should provide RM 3 for each RM 1 spent on the program.

Not only does this program eventually pay for itself, it actually increases your bottom line as employee productivity increases. 

#9: Delayed Intervention in Mental Health Concerns Costs More 

The Problem:

As is the case with most things, early intervention is always best!  It is always better if you can intervene before the problem is a major issue. The same is true of mental health concerns. 

The danger comes in waiting until an employee needs to take a leave of absence or can no longer function effectively or efficiently in their current role. Paying for time off, training a replacement, or hiring a new employee takes time, money, and energy (productivity). 

What if the problem could have been addressed from the start?

The Solution:

A corporate wellness program treats stress and other underlying mental health struggles, addresses workplace conflict, and can connect an employee to the counsel they need for a personal concern. 

By providing access to these services as soon as an issue arises, you can potentially stave off a significant reduction in your business’ productivity.

#10: The Stigma of Mental Health Concerns May Worsen Employee Productivity

The Problem:

Services for mental health and stress are greatly underutilized in Malaysia, according to a survey conducted in a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH). 

Individuals may be unaware of the resources available to treat mental health conditions and stress and need to be educated on how to access these services. 

Some individuals may be concerned about the cost of services. 

Or even still, some Malaysians may still assume that therapy is only for those with severe mental health disorders and not for the individual battling “common” conditions such as anxiety or stress.

Regardless of the reason, we know that Malaysians are not receiving the treatment they need to address psychological distress that is inevitably affecting their job performance. 

As we have previously mentioned, when stress and other mental health struggles remain untreated, it undoubtedly affects attention, focus, and concentration in the workplace and may lead to greater absenteeism as well.  

The Solution:

A corporate wellness program not only provides access to the treatment for the underlying concern but can also provide mental health training that educates employees (and management) on mental health concerns and helps to reduce the stigma of seeking treatment to address their own concerns. 

Conclusion

Hopefully you now see how detrimental the effects of poor mental health among employees can be to your business. 

And since we are well aware that mental health concerns are on the rise and are affecting Malaysian workers in all industries, it’s time to take action. 

You can take the first step to start a corporate wellness program (EAP) today by reaching out to one of the many EAP providers in Malaysia and tailoring a program to specifically fit the needs of your company. 

There are a variety of services that can be offered via a corporate wellness program or an EAP including the following: 

  1. Mental Health Awareness Training
  2. Mental Health Counseling
  3. Counseling for marriage, family, and/or financial struggles
  4. Treatment for substance abuse
  5. Workplace Conflict Resolution
  6. Childcare and Eldercare Navigation
  7. Wellness Programs
  8. Legal Guidance
  9. Emergency Hotline

Your company may only need a few of these services and that’s okay. When contracting with a company, you can typically pick and choose the services your company will need. 

Among the many great services that an EAP in Malaysia can provide for your company, here are a few that make Solace Wellness stand out from the rest:

  • Employees have access to a 24-7 hotline and can begin counseling services within 24 hours. 
  • Solace has affiliations with psychiatrists and can administer mental health assessments.
  • Solace counselors accept referrals for clients for long term counseling sessions. 
  • Solace counselors are multilingual and can provide services in all major languages in Malaysia. 
  • Solace’s referral network of service providers spans across the country and is not limited to just the Klang valley.

What will be your first action step today?