In the past, there was the company doctor who took care of the physical health of the employees. That was it. Today, companies have to face completely new health management challenges: Around 15 percent of all days of absence are due to mental illness. According to estimates by the German Federal Ministry of Health, around 50 million people in the European Union suffer from depression, exhaustion and addictions. In addition, the average duration of mental illness is 36 days, which is three times as long as for other illnesses. Furthermore, 43 percent of early retirements are due to psychological health problems.

This means not only a great deal of personal suffering, but also social and economic losses due to reduced productivity at the workplace, increased absenteeism, greater fluctuation, shortage of skilled workers and, as a result, higher recruiting costs.

And that was the situation before Corona: Although there are still no significant key figures on the psychological effects of the Corona pandemic on employees, it can be assumed that the situation for employers has not improved as a result. On the contrary many employees do not work in a suitable and undisturbed environment at home. Furthermore, they might have more worries and fears around their health and the health of family members or around their jobs, which can lead to additional or new psychological stress and strains.

Whether it is a study by Roland Berger or Deloitte, they all predict that corporate health management will become a central task in every company. As of 2014, regular mental health risk assessments have been mandatory for every company anyway. Companies have to record psychological stress factors in the workplace – and find remedies. The question is, do companies really measure mental health risks, and if not, how do they start?

CREATE AWARENESS AROUND MENTAL HEALTH

HR professionals are no psychiatrists and often have a lack of experience to deal with mentally ill employees. They need training and education to understand their responsibilities: how they can ensure well-being in the workplace and how they are able to identify colleagues who need help and how they can assist sufferers in their healing journey. Moreover, HR workers need to know the employment laws surrounding mental illness.

More importantly, the HR department, together with C-Level management, have to create a working atmosphere in the company where employees do not hesitate to report symptoms – without fear of a negative reaction. This means that managers also need to be trained and send out a clear signal that mental health issues are being addressed with compassion. They should also ensure that mental health stigma, misunderstandings, misrepresentations and misinformation have no place in the company.

It might help to emphasise on company values such as trust, openness, respect and integrity and of developing a mental health policy and guideline to support managers in taking care of their teams.

GET DATA ABOUT STRAIN OR STRESS SYMPTOMS IN YOUR COMPANY 

The second step is to gather data which is already available within HR such as results from former employee surveys, data about work absence for each department, total sick leaves, employee turnover, and already known health complaints. To start a deep dive on the health situation in your company, you can carry out 1:1 interviews, workshops or dedicated health surveys. Questionnaires should be customised for the activity of different departments or the company’s business.

In order to analyse the data and correctly assess the psychological stress in your company, you need external experts. After identifying meaningful results, HR can develop a strategy and programs for prevention, intervention, and protection. Corporate health management looks different in every company but can include fields such as coaching, corporate behaviour, diversity, education about healthy eating or training on back problems, addiction and burnout prevention programs.

If you have any questions about Corporate Health Management, please contact our MD Marie (marie@doneberlin.com)