Mental health is an often overlooked aspect of workers’ compensation, yet, with one in five adults experiencing an anxiety disorder on a yearly basis, it remains as one of the top three reasons for workplace absences today.

Taking a step back to analyze an otherwise unseen issue of mental health may not coincide with the working culture of the Midwest, but understanding its effect on productivity can help employers reduce stress and create a better workplace for all employees.

“Stress” is often an insidious force in the workplace because it can trickle into other elements of life. Relationships with family members and our individual well-being, including sleep and body weight management, can suffer from workplace stress. These factors become cyclical and discovering the primary cause of issues can turn into a chicken-or-egg dilemma.

Who is most likely to be affected?

Food service and retail employees reported the highest levels of stress and mental health disorders. As a result, 16.9 percent of workers in these industries abuse drugs or alcohol, the use of which is often ingrained into the industry culture. This stress leads to increased tardiness, loss of productivity and higher turnover.

Employers may be hesitant to provide mental health care services on top of the already rising costs of health insurance, but with a $179 billion price tag, taking steps to managing workplace stress and mental health could be a cost saver for employers and society and as a whole.

Best practices for managing mental health

Employees who felt high levels of stress in the workplace were up to six times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim. A study published on SafetyNational.com gives us critical insights into some best practices employers are using to reduce stress in conjunction with workers’ compensation.

Workers may find it tough to talk directly to a boss or co-worker about stress levels out of fear for their status in the workplace. Emerging trends in mental health management could balance the demands of the employer with the needs of the employee. Workers at Pitney Bowes were allowed direct access to on-site care providers. Meanwhile, employees at Comcast were required to see a behavioral health specialist when filing a disability claim.

The issue of mental health is deeper than shallow “how to guides” or just working through it. Employees who have resources available do take advantage of them to improve mental health. If you believe mental health plays a factor in your workers’ compensation or disability claim, an attorney can be a resource to you in obtaining the care you need.