The evidence is clear that the cost of mental illness in the workplace is significant and widespread, and that it accumulates over a worker’s lifetime. Almost 20% of working adults report significant symptoms of mental illness over the course of a month, and half will experience an issue over their lifetime. Think about that for a moment. That potentially means one in five of your employees could be struggling with significant mental health issues as you read this.

While illnesses vary in severity and nature, symptoms can interfere with productivity in ways that have meaningful consequences for employers and employees alike. Depression, for example, can make small tasks seem daunting and can lead people to be irritable and angry with others. Anxiety can make it hard for people to meet deadlines, participate in meetings, or make presentations. Experiencing symptoms of mental illness can lead people to miss work altogether. In some cases, mental illness symptoms lead people to lose or leave their jobs.

If employers want a future of work where business continues to grow and thrive, then we need responses that recognize the reality of mental health symptoms, allow for flexibility and accommodation in work, and still preserve productivity.

The good news is that such solutions exist. The disruptions caused by mental illnesses at work can themselves be interrupted, by combining high-quality clinical interventions with workplace accommodations and support. And changes in the workplace brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic offer new opportunities to put those solutions in place.

For example, the rapid expansion of tele-mental health during the pandemic can make it easier to facilitate access to treatment for workers by reducing the time and travel costs of care.

Read the full article about mental health in the workplace by Sherry Glied and Richard G. Frank at Brookings.