Why businesses can’t ignore mental health in the workplace

One-third of American workers reportedly suffer from chronic stress, and it’s estimated that $27 billion worth of work days are lost to mental-health related absences each year. That’s why companies cannot afford to ignore the mental health of their workers, said John Quelch, a professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Business School (HBS), during a May 5, 2016 episode of the HBS Cold Call podcast.

Quelch noted that job stress—worrying about job security or an overbearing manager, for example–can play a key role in mental health. And despite the enormous health and economic costs, very little is spent on mental health care—just 8% of health care spending in the U.S. goes toward mental health. Despite extensive legal protections, many workers don’t disclose mental health conditions because of the associated stigma, he said.

The mental health of workers is especially important in fields like transportation, where workers are responsible for the health and safety of other people, said Quelch, “For those types of employment situations, there’s going to be a little bit more emphasis on not just random drug testing but random mental health testing as well, and you’re going to see more of that coming into the workforce environment where safety and security of innocent individuals is at stake.”

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Learn more

Is good health good for business? (Harvard Chan School news)

Building bridges between public health and business (Harvard Chan School news)