When an employee feels that their employers care about them, employee satisfaction and loyalty are increased and in the long run, may result in a reduction in staff turnover. Picture: Courtesy of www.sxc.hu
Leo Kasim, Bandar Seri Begawan
ORGANISATIONS have a duty to ensure good mental health among their employees, a factor which can affect the productivity of a worker and in turn, the establishment itself.
Todd McPherson, a consulting psychologist at the Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC), said excessive anxiety increases the likelihood of an employee taking unnecessary days off or leaving work early.
"It was estimated in the late 1990's that in the US alone, the economic cost of anxiety disorders was between $42 and $47 billion dollars," he told The Brunei Times in an e-mailed statement late last week.
McPherson presented a talk on "Understanding & Eliminating Anxiety and Panic Attacks" organised by JPMC last Friday.
Someone with an anxiety disorder may struggle or be unable to face situations such as doing presentations during meetings or face-to-face interaction.
"They may be reluctant to voice their opinions or ask questions, which means that the company is losing the benefit of this person's experience and knowledge," he said.
Employees with anxiety disorder also tend to have a perfectionistic approach to their work, which can lead to excessive stress resulting in burnout and employee conflicts.
While striving for perfection may seem like a positive trait, McPherson said "it often means that they are working far too hard and long and may miss deadlines because they are trying to achieve too much".
To address anxiety disorders in the workplace, McPherson suggested that organisations provide employees with useful information by inviting specialists to present talks or distribute informational brochures; and make sure that employees have access to private and confidential counselling or therapy.
"One local company I know provides mental health screenings for their employees through a simple checklist which determines whether they are experiencing high levels of stress, depression or anxiety," he said, adding that those who have related symptoms would be referred to a psychologist.
"Sometimes important issues are addressed over a number of meetings and improvement occurs, and sometimes the employee will attend one meeting and decide that they're doing alright at the moment and don't require further help. It's usually up to the employee to decide (and) I think this is an excellent model," he said.
When an employee feels that their employers care about them, employee satisfaction and loyalty is increased, and in the long run, may result in a reduction in staff turnover, he pointed out.
On the other hand, employers also have a duty to be clear about each and every employee's job scope, provide adequate resources and feedback and also include them in the goal-setting process.
"Essentially, if best business practices are followed, employees are less likely to suffer from stress and anxiety," he said. Organisational psychologists are also hired in certain organisations to help employees perform optimally.
Even the most conservative Return on Investment (ROI) reports from hundreds of studies show a return ranging from $5 to $16, per $1 invested in a counselling and support programme, McPherson pointed out.
Organisations normally either pay a service provider a monthly fee for employee counselling or divide the fee costs equally with the employee.
"Most large companies in North America provide employees subsidised access to counselling. They realise that the small cost of this pays off (and gives) far greater employee satisfaction and productivity."
The Brunei Times