Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles—who many consider the greatest gymnast of all time—withdrew last July from the Olimpic competition, explaining she needed to focus on her personal well-being. Do you remember that? Fortunately, she is not the only ambassador showing the world we need to focus on mental issues and end the stigma on these matters. 

In fact, the 10th of October, last Sunday, was World Mental Health Day. A day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues worldwide and mobilizing efforts to support mental health. In the case of companies, common mental health issues that affect their operations and labor force encompass depression, excessive stress, burnout, stigma on mental problems, among others. In the most severe cases, these incidents result in permanent inability to work or suicide. 

But why would this topic be important for a company? For two reasons:

The central one: performance and profit. Do you know any successful company relying upon a vulnerable dissatisfied workforce? In fact, companies' most important resources are 'Their People' and without a healthy and satisfied workforce, it will be difficult for companies to strive. A recent study launched by Deloitte shows that around 43% of Millenials and Gen Z feel stressed all or most of the time, and despite more discussion about mental health during the pandemic, the stigma at work endures. Moreover, about a third of all respondents said they'd taken time off work due to stress and anxiety since the start of the pandemic. This same research has shown that there has never been a more pressing need for employers to prioritize mental health at work. In fact, preexisting mental health challenges have been exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Even before COVID-19, behavioral health problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression were widespread, leading to diminished well-being and exacting an enormous toll in the form of absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased healthcare costs. Starbucks, for example, reported paying more for health insurance than for coffee, back in 2010. Considering mental problems are a cause of several physical diseases, companies have (indeed) strong incentives to work on the preventive side of this question. 

The second reason why companies should look to this agenda is a motivational and leadership one. Do you want to be the kind of company setting this agenda for the future, with the support of your satisfied workforce, or the one everyone wants to drop out in the first chance? Are you eager to demystify this issue and contribute to a healthier and supportive society where mental problems are addressed and not disguised?

If this second reason rings a bell to you, we have bad and good news. The bad ones (I know you prefer bad ones first) are that Portugal is the second most affected country in Europe regarding mental health issues (5th in OECD). One in 5 Portuguese suffers mental health problems. The good news is that this agenda is already on the wheels and companies like Accenture, Deloitte, Bial, Farfetch, Galp, REN, among others, are addressing this agenda proactively. In addition, tools like the 29k FJN app of Fundação José Neves, and startups like Nevaro and Zenklub are working with several companies to bring well-being to the center of the workplace. 

Because much more needs to be done, our Center is deeply compromised with this agenda! Jump in if you want to take part in this coming venture!

Have a great and impactful week!

Filipa Pires de Almeida
Deputy Director
Center for Responsible Business and Leadership

This article refers to edition #109 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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