Cost-benefit analysis for mental health investments in the workplace

April 25, 2023

Here are the facts and figures you need to convince your company’s decision-makers to adopt a mental health program. Spoiler alert: It’s not just the ROI that’s positive.

Likeminded Editorial Team

Table of Content

5 facts from the cost-benefits analysis

Mental health is at least as important for our well-being as physical health. After all, “only when we are mentally healthy can we realize our own potential, cope well with normal stressors in everyday life, work productively, and contribute to the community,” wrote WHO almost 20 years ago.

Yet mental health is still taboo. Not just in the workplace, but in society as a whole. Yet 49% of workers currently feel slightly to severely burned out. It’s time to act!

Return-on-Investment & other arguments: What are the benefits of mental health programs in the workplace? 

The best way is with targeted mental health programs. Here’s an overview of the benefits of such programs:

  • Reduces absenteeism (up to -50%!)
  • Increased productivity
  • Stronger employee loyalty, less fluctuation
  • Increased attractiveness as an employer
  • Higher employee motivation
  • More safety at work (for example, less negative publicity due to a mentally stressful work environment)
  • More satisfied investors, as they also pay more attention to risk factors such as poor mental health

But how do you argue in favor of investments in mental health? The best way is with facts and figures on the return on investment (ROI). And this is exactly what we have selected from various studies. With this data, you can convince decision-makers in your company of the benefits of a program to promote mental health in the workplace.

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Fact 1: Mental stress costs your company significantly 

The economic consequence of poor mental health is severe. The World Economic Forum estimates the associated losses at $16 trillion between 2011 and 2030. This is equivalent to almost one billion dollars per year – a figure also arrived at by the WHO in a study a few years later.

Fact 2: Mental health investments have a positive ROI

Deloitte conducted a study in 10 Canadian companies, comparing how much relevant program content and benefits cost and how much companies can save after a reduction in sickness-related absences (i.e., opportunity costs due to absenteeism vs. investment). The result: a positive ROI was found for all the companies studied. The WHO even concludes that up to 4 US dollars of ROI results from each US dollar invested.

Fact 3: It’s about much more than productivity

Employee satisfaction and employer branding are also significant reasons to support mental health programs. Both benefit from such programs – key words: lower employee turnover and higher attractiveness of the employer.

7 out of 10 employees would change jobs if the new company supported them in their mental health.

7 out of 10 employees would change jobs if the new company supported them in their mental health. 92% would be more likely to stay in their job if their supervisors were more empathetic. And managers who lead their teams empathically also report an average 21% increase in productivity.

Fact 4: Sick leave decreases

Deloitte found in a study that sick days decreased by up to 50% in the companies they studied after implementing mental health programs. So if you know the number of sick days per year in your company, cut it in half and you have your very own estimate of the productivity gains that could be possible at your company. Not to mention the increased employee satisfcation that comes with it.

Fact 5: Most companies don’t have to start from scratch 

The majority of companies surveyed by Deloitte, the WHO, and the DAK already offered isolated measures to support the mental health of their employees. Conflict training, change management, time management, and the like are already moving in the right direction and, if successful, can be used as a basis. What most companies currently lack are support offerings at the individual level. Platforms such as Likeminded help here by filling precisely these gaps with the right formats such as group workshops and one-on-one meetings or topic-specific on-demand webinars.

How do you ensure that a mental health program delivers a positive ROI?

Deloitte provides fairly clear answers to this question in their study as well:

1. Too much change?

One factor that can get in the way of a positive ROI is organizational structure. In highly decentralized companies, far-reaching changes often occur overnight – especially at the level of corporate culture – due to takeovers, acquisitions, or divestments. This can hinder the implementation of a company-wide mental health program.

2. Organize sufficient resources 

Companies that created a dedicated small team for their workplace mental health programs and were willing to invest in the area achieved positive ROI most quickly. Lack of resources can mean that while leaders talk about the issue, implementation at the employee level is not yet clicking. If that is what’s happening for you, it’s best to turn to specialists like Likeminded, who can support you with expertise and proven processes in addition to an on-demand platform available 24/7.

3. Set priorities

Everyone in the company should understand that such a program is really needed – first and foremost the management level. After all, it is them who usually have to approve the necessary funds for it. The attitude of leaders toward the issue is a key factor in creating a culture and environment where all employees – regardless of hierarchy – understand the importance of mental health and can prioritize it in their daily lives. So, make the issue highly visible in your company.

4. Create cost awareness

An important success factor is also the recognition that a lack of mental health in the company is a major cost driver. For many organizations, concrete figures on these costs provided the initial impetus to even consider offers in this area. The more data you have on this cost burden in your organization, the easier it will be to convince them.

5. Establish a clear link to goals 

Those who embed mental health as a prerequisite for business success have a better chance of positive ROI. Customer-facing companies, for example, can attribute better customer relationships to their employees' mental health and strength. The clearer the connections, the greater the acceptance and long-term success.

6. Do not only exstinguish fires, but prevent them!

Programs that aim to promote mental health at an early stage, not just to put out existing fires, also promise greater success. The earlier the program starts, the greater and more sustainable the ROI. Not everyone who is not feeling well right now needs mental health care. Perhaps awareness-raising webinars or group exercises, including sharing, will be enough for some to alleviate stress and ensure the fire doesn’t break out in the first place.

7. Make efficient use of limited resources

If resources are limited at first, it’s best to start in areas where the impact is particularly high. Leadership training, for example, can be used as a catalyst to embed the issue in your organization and, by extension, in your teams. Awareness-raising campaigns and personal storytelling typically cost little and can greatly reduce the stigma associated with mental health in the workplace.

8. Introduce clear key figures

Make success measurable from the start. Set clear goals and create metrics that demonstrate how close you are to achieving your goals with the program. Key performance indicators (KPIs) ensure that everyone stays on top of things and doesn’t lose interest at some point. Possible KPIs could be, for example, the percentage of executives who attended related trainings or the total number of interactions on a platform.

Use your KPIs to continuously optimize your offering, keeping in mind that mental health programs need to be actively driven for around three years to show long-term results, not just quick wins.

With an awareness of the aforementioned stumbling blocks in launching and implementing such programs, you can consciously avoid many hurdles. Providers like Likeminded can help you with a lot of experience and a comprehensive offering to develop the right strategies and plans for your company.

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