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There’s an adage that companies are only as strong as their employees. So, many employers expect their staff to be both physically and mentally healthy.

According to Dr. Phil Epstein, a psychologist at Partners for Behavioral Health & Wellness in Beachwood; Dr. Joel R. Gecht, president, CEO and psychologist at IMPACT Solutions in Beachwood; and Matt Groner, clinical director at Beech Brook in Pepper Pike, if someone is struggling with their mental health, productivity may suffer.

“At any point of time, many people have some pressure in their life,” Gecht said. “It’s not unusual to have stress. And stress in and of itself isn’t bad. But if you compounded everyday living with financial concerns and pressures on the job and general living things that happen, it’s not unusual for stress to get out of control. It can affect attitudes, morale and engagement.”

Epstein said the side effects of mental health issues depend on the presenting problem. For example, a depressed person doesn’t have much energy or motivation. He added people with depression suffer from absenteeism, and that can cost their employer.

“They can have very low energy and often look to others for help, so others have to do their job as well,” he said. 

Additionally, for people struggling with bipolar disorder, Epstein said these employees can be very active, but not necessarily productive.

When considering a staff’s mental health, it’s important to build a healthy workplace.

“A healthy workplace is one that focuses on safety for all involved,” Groner explained. “People need to feel like they’re coming to work at a safe place, and that’s not only physical safety but also emotional safety. You want to promote communication that is open, healthy and aligns with the organization’s mission and vision. It’s about cooperation.”

Gecht added, “This includes work-life balance, ensuring that you have an employee assistance program and wellness initiatives, recognition of people’s work and being able to create a team environment. Those factors contribute to a psychologically healthy workplace.”

Epstein noted employers should make employees feel heard.

“If we have people who come to work who feel undervalued, they’re going to feel very anxious, and those who are prone to anxiety collapse under that,” he said. “You want a workplace where employees are respected and valued.”

Employees play a role in their personal needs.

“There was a time where we had very poor mental health benefits in insurance plans,” Epstein said. “It’s better now – whatever is offered medically has to be offered for mental health. So, the employee has to be able to recognize these kinds of symptoms and be willing to seek help.”

Groner said his company’s employee assistance program values and promotes self-care.

“Burn-out is a big issue,” he said. “People work long hours and we have high demands placed on us. It’s about feeling heard. We want people to feel like what they say and do matters. It’s about searching for balance and knowing it’s OK to look for help.”

But to build a healthy workplace, employees and supervisors should collaborate.

“It starts with seeing that goal as a shared goal,” Groner stated. “This is something that the administration can’t do without the staff. You can’t walk away. It’s about creating that healthy work environment and supporting each other through the good times and when people are under stress.”

Epstein added, “Employers really need to value their employees as human beings who are worthy of respect and compassion. When you do this, you end up with employees who are much who are more effective, efficient and productive.”

Gecht said, “Part of it is listening to your employees. If you feel more connected to your team, you’re more likely to want to do well for them. If the core of our organization is not healthy, it’s going to produce an unhealthy product.”

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