Accommodating Employees with Mental Illness

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Today, more than $100 billion is being spent to treat mental illness in the United States. More people than ever are struggling with depression, and they are finding it difficult to hold onto steady corporate jobs. Fortunately, many employers are beginning to realize that mental illness is one of the leading causes of disruption in the workplace, as it is not always evident on a superficial level, but is negatively impacting employees and their job performance. These firms are faced with a difficult challenge – How can we accommodate mental illnesses in the workplace? 18% of the U.S. workforce today suffers from a form of mental illness, or is likely to face one in the course of their careers. Thus, it is imperative that companies learn to handle these cases, as they could otherwise risk losing out on talented employees and countless hours of productivity. Here is how a company can go about the fight against mental illness.
Raise Awareness
To begin the process of dealing with mental illness at the workplace, employers need to raise awareness about these conditions, which often appear to be quite normal and are not always evident at first glance. You need to make people understand that mental illness can appear in a variety of forms and can affect the entire work environment if it is not handled properly. By introducing training programs or seminars to educate your employees, you can make the workplace a more welcoming environment for those who are coping with a form of mental illness. By raising awareness, an employee with mental illness might be more willing to disclose their condition, so that you can make accommodations before it affects their or anybody else’s productivity. Also, when your other employees are knowledgeable about mental illness, they are more likely to accept when you provide accommodations for their coworkers who may have certain conditions.
Be Flexible
Employees dealing with mental illnesses may require more frequent breaks, such as to take their medication, depending on the type of condition. Some of these individuals may even need to take a couple of days or weeks off for checkups or uninterrupted therapy.
As an employer, it is essential that you make allowances in such cases. This is also part of the reason why it is important to educate your other employees on the subject of mental illnesses. Thus, when you give an affected employee a break, the others won’t view it as an act of favoritism.
Reach Out for Help
You may be running a large corporation, but that doesn’t mean you are a therapist! Sometimes, you may have to reach out to a professional psychiatrist or therapist to help out one of your employees who is coping with mental illness. By doing so, you are showing all of your employees that you care about their health, and that you are willing to invest in their careers.
Have a Return-To-Work Process
Once an employee has recovered from a mental illness, it may not be possible for them to instantly jump back into the daily routine of work. You will need to have a process that slowly re-introduces them to the workplace, so that they can get acclimated with any changes that may have occurred in their absence. Dealing with mental illness is an extremely arduous process, and it is important to let your employees know that you are there to help them through their ordeal. By having a procedure to reintroduce employees to the workplace at their own pace, you are helping to speed up the recovery process and assisting them as they return to their former levels of productivity. These are just a few ways in which a company can take care of employees with mental illness. By making accommodations, you are showing everyone that your business takes special measures to support its employees in times of need. Building this type of goodwill with your employees will surely lead to business success in the long term.