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Employers and Employee Mental Wellness: Why Employers Should Care

Employers need to recognize that within the workplace and the work focused organization everything is interconnected. Employee performance is connected to employee health, employee mental health and employee experiences at work.

Understandably, how an employee is feeling physically will impact their performance at work. As we have been reminded by the COVID-19 pandemic, employees showing up to work sick can transmit their illness to other employees.

An employee’s experience at work is the result of many factors. What is important for employers to recognize and understand is that the employee experience is completely subjective. Therefore, it is unique to each employee and is based on each individual employee’s expectations and perceptions.

Since there is no consensus definition as to what constitutes employee mental health, I will be using the term mental health here as a broad umbrella like term similar to the way health is generally used to reflect physical or physiological health. Used this way, mental health consists of two sub-components — mental illness and mental wellness.

Clearly, employers need to be concerned when any employee experiences a diagnosable mental illness. Fortunately, only about 20% of an employee population actually experiences a diagnosable mental illness.

But all employees experience mental health. Those employees who do not experience a mental illness will fall along some point on the continuum of mental wellness. The mental wellness continuum runs from languishing to flourishing.

Ideally, employers want their employees to fall at or as close as possible to the flourishing end of the mental wellness continuum. The reason being that employees who are flourishing are likely to be resilient and therefore less subject to psychological distress caused by life events, workplace stressors and burnout. Psychological distress, stress and burnout can all negatively impact employee job performance.

While mental illness and mental wellness are related, they are separate, independent components of mental health each existing on its own separate continuum. This means that it is important for employers to recognize that reducing or even eliminating mental illness will not, by itself, create employee mental wellness.

This is in no way meant to suggest that employers should not address employee mental illness. Clearly they should. But it does mean that employers must also address employee mental wellness.

Just as positive health is about more than just the reduction or elimination of physical illness and disease, mental wellness is about more than just the reduction or elimination of mental illness. Therefore to achieve employee mental wellness, employers must do more than simply addressing employee mental illness. Employers need to become pioneers in mental wellness.

©2020. William McPeck. All Rights Reserved

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Bill McPeck has been involved as a leader and practitioner in employee health, safety, wellness and wellbeing for close to 30 years.

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William McPeck

William McPeck

Bill McPeck has been involved as a leader and practitioner in employee health, safety, wellness and wellbeing for close to 30 years.

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