One more priority for 2020…

One more priority for 2020... Colin Taylor

By Colin Taylor

One priority each of us should have on our “to do” for 2020 is mental health.

Mental health disorders are pervasive, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), with nearly 1 in 5 Americans aged 18 or older reporting mental illness and more than 70% reporting at least one symptom of stress in 2016. Too often we overlook mental health issues as personal issues that are not the concern or responsibility of the employers or the organization. Yet, according to the World Health Organization, “depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.”

Attendance and attrition have always been challenges in the contact center world. Today, mental health related issues are now the number one cause for absences. In the UK alone over 15 million working days were lost to mental illness last year. As contact center operators we know our environments are stressful and labor intensive, we may have hundreds or thousands of staff interacting with our customers and prospects each and every day.

Mental health and mental wellness are certainly impacting our business and I believe we have an obligation to our employees to create and maintain an work environment that supports mental wellness. Mental health has long been stigmatized and many managers are uncomfortable dealing with this topic. Yet not dealing with mental health concerns are bad for business, not just in terms of absenteeism, but also in terms of reduced employee engagement and reduced productivity. Investing in supporting our employees who struggle with mental health makes good business sense. One study cited in the Harvard Mental Health Letter showed that counseling and intervention had a 400% return on investment when comparing the cost of the support and intervention to the increase in productivity.

Of course, there is a personal cost to every person or employee impacted by the mental health issues of their co-workers, families and friends, yet this topic is seldom discussed. Perhaps it is the stigma, or perhaps it is that we don’t know what to do or how to address the issues, so we ignore them and hope that they go away. But we need to discuss mental health. We owe it to our employees, our families and ourselves. We don’t know who may be impacted by mental health issues and challenges.

I know this all too well: my daughter committed suicide last fall, and my wife did the same last month.

So in 2020, let’s create a culture of health in our workplaces. I encourage each of you to champion mental wellness in your organizations. The CDC outlines a number of steps employers can take, including:

  • Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
  • Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral when appropriate.
  • Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket costs for depression medications and mental health counseling.
  • Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
  • Distribute materials, such as brochures, fliers, and videos, to all employees about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
  • Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
  • Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
  • Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals.
  • Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.

My goal for 2020 is to try to bring mental health out from the shadows into the open where we can discuss it and treat it. I hope that you will join me in this effort.


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