Feature Blog Post by Carolyn Lamparella, Ed.S., L.P.C., Program Director at Preferred EAP, which is part of Populytics, Inc./LVPHO's collaboration of employer health services
“Mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability in the United States."
– National Alliance on Mental Illness
Considering this startling fact, you may wonder why there isn’t more focus on mental health in the workplace. Our experience as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)provider to hundreds of small and large businesses has helped us identify some of the most common reasons mental health is overlooked.
First, most employers have limited access to data regarding the specific impact mental health is having on company productivity. Frequently, the effects are masked by physical conditions or are underreported due to the stigma that continues to surround mental illness. Employees are often reluctant to share information about their emotional well-being which then results in a lack of awareness of resources and a reluctance to seek help.
Employers may also feel that offering an EAP program is enough as opposed to implementing a more comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying culture of the company. Real workplace solutions involve a shift in mindset from crisis intervention to prevention and acceptance of the importance of emotional wellness.In order to achieve this transformation, an employer must be ready to integrate mental health information into every level of daily operations; thereby, normalizing mental health and reducing the fears associated with seeking help.
The Link to Productivity
The facts clearly show how much the mental health of workers can impact their employers. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, there are more workers absent because of stress and anxiety than due to physical illness or injury. Absenteeism has obvious significant impacts on productivity and creates a huge cost burden for the employer as a result of unemployment, disability, and decreased performance.
The American Psychiatric Association Foundation and its Center for Workplace Mental Health reports the total economic burden of depression alone is estimated to be $210.5 billion per year, representing a 21.5% increase over the last 10 years. Nearly half (48%-50%) of these costs are attributed to absenteeism (missed days from work) and presenteeism (reduced productivity while at work).*
Reversing Mental Health Stigma
Employees often comfortably talk about their physical ailments around the water cooler; “I had the flu last week,” or “Did you hear Sally is having a knee replacement?” and so on. However, we rarely hear from our colleagues about their failing relationships, bouts of depression, or debilitating anxiety because of their fear of being judged or viewed as weak or incompetent. In some cases, employees may have experienced discrimination, bullying, or rejection as a result of their mental health challenges. They may even fear losing their job if they reveal a mental health problem.
Reversing this stigma begins with conversation. In particular, it begins with leaders, managers, and supervisors talking about the importance of mental health and the resources that are available to help employees care for their emotional well-being. This creates an atmosphere of safety, comfort, and acceptance for employees who may be experiencing something similar. The goal should be to create a culture of acceptance in order to reduce the effects of mental health concerns in the workplace.
What are the Best First Steps to Take?The following three steps are recommended to begin building a culture of mental health support and acceptance.
Feature Blog Post by Carol Obando-Derstine, regional affairs director, PPL Electric Utilities
If we could harness the energy of little kids excited to trick-or-treat – or the energy of kids after a few pieces of Halloween candy – we could probably light the entire state of Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, that seemingly boundless source of free seasonal energy hasn’t been tapped.
The good news is this: While there are no magic solutions for free energy, there are steps you can take to manage your energy use and reduce your electric bill as temperatures get colder and sunlight gets scarcer.
October is Energy Awareness Month. In some places, it’s also called Energy Action Month. That might be the better name: Awareness is a good first step, but action is needed to save.
One action you can take is to have your heating system inspected and serviced before the real cold weather arrives. If it hasn’t been looked at in a while, it might not be running as efficiently as it could be. A little attention now could save you money down the road.
Another little improvement that can pay off is caulking and weatherstripping around doors, windows and skylights. If you add up all of the hidden air leaks in your home, they can equal a hole the size of an open window. A little low-cost attention on your part can keep more of the hot air inside, where you want it.
If you don’t have a smart thermostat, now’s a great time to get on board. A digital thermostat lets you turn down the heat when you’re not at home. Some of them can also be adjusted remotely by cell phone, so if you’re coming home earlier than expected, you can have things heating up when you get home.
Unplug home electronics when you’re not using them, or plug them into smart power strips that will cut power to them. Home electronics can account for up to 12 percent of your energy bill, so saving in this area is no small matter.
PPL Electric Utilities customers can take a quick online assessment at pplelectricsavings.com that will give you energy efficiency tips tailored to your home. You’ll get a report showing where your home is using the most electricity and where you could benefit most from behavior changes or system upgrades—with links to rebates available from PPL.
And don’t forget LED bulbs, which use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescents without sacrificing light output. LEDs can last up to 20 years longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, so you save on bulb replacement costs, too. (PPL offers instant discounts on LEDs at some retailers. Learn more at pplelectricsavings.com.)
All these steps, taken together, can add up to some pretty good energy savings around the house. And that might make you just about as excited as a kid dressed up for trick-or-treating.
The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber is the 7th largest Chamber in the United States!