Promoting Behavioral Health in the Workplace Makes Good Business Sense

Promoting Behavioral Health in the Workplace Makes Good Business Sense

Media Contact
Steve Manas
848-932-0559

“We need to do more with less.” “Would you mind working this weekend?” “Revenue is down. Sorry. No raises this year.”

It’s no wonder that the workplace, where many of us spend about half our waking hours, is fraught with stress. Longer hours, stagnant pay, smaller staffs, increased responsibility and accountability all add up to an anxiety-laden environment. Add this to all the agita found in the rest of our lives and it’s quite evident why so many employees are not operating at full strength on the job.

Andy Germak, a professor of professional practice and founding executive director of the Center for Leadership and Management at Rutgers School of Social Work, and a team of corporate sponsors aim to bridge the gap between community behavioral health practitioners and corporate human resource professionals. Their shared goal: to maximize the well-being and work-related performance of their clients and employees. Toward this end, Rutgers is hosting daylong conference, “A Brave New Workplace: Ending stigma and Promoting Behavioral Health as a Key to Wellness.” The free, public conference will take place Nov. 19 at the Livingston Student Center.

Rutgers Today: Why is there a need for a conference on the workplace, behavioral health and stigma?

Office stress
Andy Germak: Behavioral health conditions, such as mental health and substance use disorders, are known to affect nearly one out of every four people in this country. It is therefore very likely that many people are struggling with these issues on the job. Stigma makes this problem even worse – far too often behavioral health is a taboo subject in workplaces. Employees do not feel comfortable addressing personal problems at work and clinicians may not be familiar enough with workplace dynamics to help employees cope.

Rutgers Today: How can employers start to build a healthy culture in the workplace and does the process need be expensive?

Germak: Employers can easily develop healthy workplaces across all dimensions of health without cutting into the bottom line. Encouraging more movement around the office or holding meetings while standing or walking are simple ways to promote physical health. Employers can enhance the emotional health of employees by providing supportive supervision on a regular basis or instituting an employee assistance program, an employee benefit that is usually very affordable. Employers also can address financial well-being even when raising wages is not possible. Employees in lower-paying positions frequently worry about personal finances. Employers can help workers navigate a company’s savings and banking benefits. Far too often, these types of benefits are misunderstood and underutilized, especially by millennial generation workers.

Rutgers Today: How can clinicians and corporate human resource professionals tap into each other’s expertise to help their clients and employees?

Andy Germak
Andy Germak, Rutgers School of Social Work
Germak: Human resource professionals and clinicians often have a common objective – to promote employee well-being. From a business perspective, when employees are healthy, productivity in the workplace is enhanced. From a social standpoint, employee wellness can improve co-worker, family, and other relationships in the lives of employees. One of the best ways for workplace leaders and helping professionals to learn from each other is through coming together at professional events, such as our upcoming conference, and exchanging best practice information aimed at client-employee well-being. We are trying to break down a barrier that at times exists between the workplace and community providers.

Rutgers Today: Why are employers making efforts to reduce workplace stress and improve employees’ mental and physical health? What is driving this trend?

Germak: In many industries, the stress of work is inevitable. But this does not mean that the workplace must also be stressful. Many employers are interested in enhancing employee health because doing so has been shown to be good for business. But this “business case” is not the only driver of this trend. I think many employers are beginning to realize that taking care of employees is the right thing to do. Companies that emphasize a healthy work environment often achieve both financial and social success.

Media Contact
Steve Manas
848-932-0559