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Poor mental wellbeing could be harming your team: Here’s how

The results are in: Without wellbeing, your team suffers.

Research shows that employees with high levels of stress are less engaged, not to mention less creative and productive. Read on for a few of the nitty-gritty details of how (and why) mental wellbeing impacts your team as a whole and some ways you can help your employees handle stress.

Poor mental health affects employee engagement

As every manager knows, engaged employees who are switched on and enthusiastic about their work are very, very good for business. In fact, engaged teams are up to 21% more profitable, but unfortunately, per research conducted by Gallup, only 15% of employees are engaged worldwide.

And poor mental wellbeing and stress gone unmanaged are significant factors in employees’ engagement levels (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development).

It makes a lot of sense. It’s hard to be invested in and excited about your work when you feel "overwhelmed" or "spread too thin"—both common complaints in today’s busy, rapidly changing workplace. And disengagement isn’t the only problem caused by poor mental health: creativity takes a hit, too.

High stress levels squash creativity

When it comes to creative thinking and innovation, stress is really bad news. Long-term stress can put your body into constant fight-or-flight mode and is particularly harmful to the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for long-term memory that has also more recently been linked to imagination and insights in problem-solving.

So when we say poor mental wellbeing dulls creativity, it’s safe to say we mean it literally. And reduced creativity is just the tip of the Titanic-sinking iceberg—there’s also much more than meets the eye when it comes to stress’ effect on productivity.

A man sits in front of a laptop screen, frowning and looking at his phone.

@priscilladupreez via Unsplash

Poor mental wellbeing harms productivity

Too much stress can slow productivity to a halt. Because when your mind is ruminating, aka, running in dog-chasing-their-tail circles about your to-do list, your focus is shot. And when you try to work on something despite your less-than-favorable-state-of-mind, that focus likely disappears with even the teensiest distraction—like Fido’s when there’s a juicy new bone in the room.

And you’re not aloneDeloitte reports that only 2 in 5 employees function at peak performance under normal circumstances.

High-stress levels lead to absenteeism

Sure, your staff doesn’t call in "stressed". But they probably should. Poor mental health is a major (if largely invisible) factor in absenteeism. In fact, in 2015-2016, 45% of all days missed due to "ill health" were related to work stress.

12.8 million working days were estimated to have been lost due to stress, anxiety and depression, costing companies twice the original rate of employees’ pay in lost productivity, and related expenses.

Poor mental wellbeing is linked to problems with presenteeism

It sounds counterintuitive, but stressed people tend to avoid missing work for as long as they can. This often has to with feelings about being either a) so replaceable no one will notice they’re gone, or b) so irreplaceable that their team can’t do without them or any amount of time without all work screeching to a halt.

So, since they can’t face taking time off to get some much-needed rest, instead they work no matter what, even when they’re feeling physically or mentally unwell and get less done. When taken to extremes, this phenomenon, known as presenteeism, costs companies nearly £15.1 billion yearlytwice as much as the cost of actual absences.

Helping your team handle stress

There’s no room for doubt here: stress is a very real problem at companies everywhere, especially during difficult times. And unfortunately, poor mental wellbeing is linked to lower levels of engagement and productivity as well as significant increases in absenteeism and presenteeism.

But taking care of stress isn’t just about finances. Companies like yours care. They’re trying hard to take care of their teams with employee health programmes. They’re doing their best to encourage staff to prioritize physical wellbeing. But perhaps now more than ever, employees’ mental health needs attention too.

The good news is most employees are ready and willing to accept help from their employers—50% of them want to see a greater focus on wellness from the companies that employ them.

So what can you do to ensure your team stays engaged, creative, productive, and, most importantly, present without adding to their stress?

Give them access to the practical tools they need to build resilience and handle stress with science and time to use them. Not only is it good for your staff’s wellbeing, it’s also a good investment—every $1 spent on effective and easily accessible mental health coverage returns $4, (NAHPC).

Is poor mental wellbeing affecting your team? What are you doing to help your staff handle work-related stress? Let us know at foundations@koahealth.com.