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  • The Startling Costs of Mental Health in Today’s Workplace

    Understatement alert!

    The events of the past few years have put an extraordinary amount of pressure on HR professionals and employers in general.  It is simply not a business as usual situation, and coming to an understanding as to what is actually driving the workforce behaviors that lead to lower employee morale, lower productivity and turnover continues to be critical for employers looking to thrive in an increasingly complex business environment.

    Almost all recent studies and surveys of employee productivity point to mental health issues as one of the most common barriers to maximum performance.  Even pre-pandemic, the World Health Organization found that:

    • Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
    • Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems, and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.
    • For every $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.

    For an insightful summary of current statistics on mental health in the workplace and some useful suggestions, please continue to our blog.

    Mental Health Claims on the Rise: New Normal for Disability-Related Charges?

    The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on employees’ mental health. They struggled to adjust to the multiple burdens of working from home, caring for family members, and achieving work-life balance. Data recently released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirm that more and more discrimination charges include claims based on mental health conditions. The change is based largely on the increase in discrimination charges related to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Mental Health Claims Up Nearly 50%

    In fiscal year 2021, 37.2% of EEOC charges included disability-related claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Of those claims, nearly 30% were based on alleged discrimination based on mental health conditions. Ten years ago, mental health claims only accounted for 20% of ADA charges.

    For example, in fiscal year 2011, only 1,362 claims were based on anxiety disorder, accounting for only 5.3% of all ADA charges. But fast forward to fiscal year 2021, and anxiety claims have more than doubled—2,639 charges were based on anxiety disorder, making up 11.6% of all ADA claims. Similarly, PTSD claims in fiscal year 2011 were only 2.3% of ADA charges, but now they account for 6.0% of charges filed in 2021.

    Pandemic Stress Affecting Employees and Workplace Culture

    The data confirm what employers likely already knew: Employees have been struggling with burnout, fatigue, and other stress related to the pandemic. Employers face more than legal risk when it comes to employee mental health. All employers, no matter the industry, want to be successful, meet goals, and focus on growth or other opportunities. But businesses that ignore employee mental health concerns may find themselves facing unproductive workers, an unsatisfied workforce, and a workplace culture that breeds negativity.

    So what should you do? Getting out in front of the issue is the best way to improve your employees’ satisfaction and potentially improve their mental health.

    • Consider providing mental health days for employees to take care of themselves and get a break.
    • Make sure your benefits plans include coverage for mental health, and ensure you have a robust employee assistance program (EAP) that is advertised to employees.
    • Encourage employees to use their paid time off (PTO), and make sure they feel they have support from their supervisors so they can actually unplug while on paid leave.
    • Finally, make sure to listen to your employees—they likely will give you clues if they and their peers are unhappy or suffering from mental health issues or other related stressors.


    Employees spend so much time at work, whether physically in the workplace or remotely. When they don’t feel supported or valued, they will seek to take their talents elsewhere. Your employees and business as a whole will be better off by making mental health a priority.

    Article courtesy of content partner BLR.  Author Jourdan D. Day is a senior associate in the Labor and Employment Department at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, in Columbus, Ohio.