Reducing the Costs of Employee Sick Days through Workplace Mental Health Training

November 15, 20172:55 pm1989 views

Amidst today’s increasing business competition and growing work-related pressure, mental health has become the leading cause of long-term work absence across the developed world. Mental health could be a real disaster because mental health is taking young people out of the workplace, it is difficult for them to get back. Owing to this reason, from both society and employer’s point of view, there is strong economic argument for discussing about mental health in the workplace.

Regarding to this matter, a study in Australia found that a four-hour mental health training program for managers could help yield fewer employee sick leaves and a roughly 10-to-1 return on investment. For a trial of the training program in 2014, study team from University of New South Wales Faculty of Medicine in Sydney recruited 128 managers on the level of duty commander in Fire and Rescue New South Wales.

Approximately half of them were randomly assigned to participate in a four-hour face-to-face mental health training initiative that taught them on how to recognise the symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and alcohol misuse in the workplace setting. The program also included the key features of common mental health issues, the roles of senior officers in employee mental health, as well as the development of skills for discussing mental health with staff. Meanwhile, the other managers were put on a waiting list to undergo the program later on.

See: Absenteeism to Cost Singapore’s Productivity S$3.3 Billion by 2030: Study Findings

Six months after the training with all the managers, the research conducted a follow-up and analyse changes in sickness absences among the 2,000 firefighters and station officers supervised by the study participants. They observe the rates of work-related sick leave and standard sick leave separately, to distinguish between the leave taken under Australian workers’ compensation program, which is directly related to injury or illness at work.

Based on the analysis, among the employees of managers who took the training, the average rate of work-related sick leave dropped from 1.56 to 1.28 percent, which corresponds to a reduction of nearly 6.5 hours per employee over six months. In the comparison group, the rate of work-related sick days increased from 0.95 to 1.23 percent during the same period. Average rates of standard sick leave increased in both groups by about one third to half of a percentage point, from roughly 5 percent, Reuters reports.

As for the training costs, it takes about $946 per manager, and based on the firefighters’ hourly salary, researchers calculated the declining number of work-related sickness absences associated with the initial training had saved $9,441 in costs per manager.

Dr. John Greden of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center in Ann Arbor in the report’s accompanying editorial said, “If you want to make a difference in the workplace, you have to talk about profit. The return on investment creates a real incentive to get workplaces involved in mental health. Supervisors can be allies who help their employees get assistance. It’s a commonsense approach to talking to the people you’re supervising and asking how they’re doing.”

“Society can reinforce these efforts, or we can continue paying a high price with the disruption of families through divorce, the loss of jobs and suicide. The better approach is to take on these issues and incorporate them into our workplace,” he added.

Read also: 1 In 3 Fresh Grads in Malaysia Leave Their Jobs within a Year, Survey Finds

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)