Therapist, additional leave… Companies try to protect the mental health of their employees

Therapist, additional leave… Companies try to protect the mental health of their employees

At a time when the psychological state of employees is of the greatest concern, many companies are addressing this health issue. In particular, they call on therapists to ensure the well-being of their employees, or offer them additional leave. Initiatives that allow them to combat absenteeism at work, while improving their attractiveness on the job market.

Google, Delta Airlines, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bell, Microsoft, Unilever… It’s difficult to keep track of the large companies that now offer psychological support services to their employees. Some allow them to benefit from free consultations with a psychologist, while others grant additional – and paid – days off to those who feel the need to take a psychological break.

Companies like AT&T go even further by welcoming therapists into their offices. The American telecoms giant opened a health and wellness center in Dallas (Texas), where its global headquarters is based, in 2020, according to Fortune magazine. Every month, nearly a thousand group employees go to this clinic to consult Connie Siciliano Avila. This approved psychologist has already received 17,000 visits in three years, a figure which continues to increase month by month.

Because a large number of reports agree that, everywhere in the world, the morale of working people is at its lowest. This phenomenon is particularly salient in the United States, where one in three workers say that their work weighs on their mental health, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. In this context, it is not surprising that employers and human resources managers are multiplying initiatives to bring comfort to the hearts of their employees. Especially since they are waiting for them at the turning point on subjects related to mental health at work. Two-thirds of American workers believe that companies should help their employees better manage their stress and anxiety, as revealed in a 2022 survey by meditation and relaxation app Calm.

A subject still taboo

But it is not always easy to talk about mental health in a professional setting, including with a specialist. The British branch of the communications agency Havas experienced this. “The feedback we have received shows that people do not feel comfortable with the presence of a therapist (on our premises). There are confidentiality issues,” explained Ewen MacPherson, in March, director of human resources for the Havas UK group at the Financial Times.

Additionally, employees may feel uncomfortable discussing their psychological difficulties in the workplace. Many fear being frowned upon by their colleagues and/or their superiors if they openly broach the subject. Some 29% of British workers believe that their mental health problems risk harming their professional progress if they are known to their employer, according to a survey by the site cited by the specialist site People Management.

This is where the problem lies. Mental health too often remains a taboo subject in companies, even if they suffer enormously from it. Psychological disorders (stress, burnout, burn-out, depression, anxiety, etc.) are the third reason for sick leave in France, behind ordinary illnesses (colds, flu, gastroenteritis, angina, etc.) and Covid, according to the latest annual Malakoff Humanis barometer.

However, employers are reluctant to take measures to ensure the mental well-being of their teams. While some believe that this is not their legal responsibility, others fear the economic cost of this support. Indeed, a study by the National Safety Council and the University of Chicago states that companies spend, on average, more than $15,000 per year for each employee with psychological disorders. A substantial sum but which is, in reality, quickly amortized. The same study reveals that companies that make this choice obtain a return on investment of 4 dollars for each dollar spent.

Investing in the prevention and treatment of psychological disorders at work is also a powerful lever for attractiveness on the job market, especially among young people. They look very favorably on organizations that care about their development and good mental health. Conversely, they are very critical of those who, in their eyes, underestimate this problem. As proof, 61% of American workers belonging to Generation Z say it is “likely/very likely” that they will leave their current job if they are offered a new position in a company offering better mental health benefits. , according to the aforementioned Society for Human Resource Management survey. Something to think about at a time when the job market is experiencing a labor shortage.