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  • Writer's pictureRita Simmons

Why Leaders Need to Support Employee Behavioral Health

Even before COVID19, many companies had already realized that playing a part in helping employees improve their health was a smart investment. Several research studies have reported that healthy employees are more productive and represent a lower cost to businesses in the form of decreased absenteeism and lower medical costs. When we enter a situation such as the current pandemic, whether your company consists of one employee or thousands, assisting your employees maintain their well-being, especially mental and behavioral health, is crucial. It is essential to the individual but also to the overall success of the business mission. This sounds intuitive and straight-forward but proves to be challenging when businesses attempt to implement and execute workplace behavioral health programs. The challenges are exacerbated by unfamiliar behavioral health terminology and the abundance of resources making it difficult for businesses, leaders, and employees to find accurate and factual information or starting points to incorporate this domain in the workplace. Additionally, community and business crises, like COVID19 or the financial crisis of 2007, tend to result in either a reactive or avoidant response, increasing the risk of permanent messaging that can degrade company culture, and in the end, productivity. The way companies handle the current COVID19 pandemic will define their culture for years to come.


The following overview is intended to introduce or refresh workplace behavioral health concepts to leaders and employees and to provide resources to aid you through this pandemic.

What is Behavioral Health?

As a generalized definition, the domain of behavioral health consists of those behaviors that impact a person’s well-being (physical, mental, personal, professional) and effect their ability to function in everyday life. Although many perceive behavioral health solely as the management of illness, the full spectrum of behavioral health includes the promotion of good health and prevention of illness.

Why does Behavioral Health matter in the workplace?

In the US, it is estimated that we spend 30% of our adult life in the workplace providing for ourselves, our families and contributing to our communities. Personal interactions and relationships at work impact business outcomes as well as the greater community. Research has shown the benefits of a healthier and happy workforce include increased productivity, higher earnings, sales growth, and decreased employee turnover. Inversely, an unhealthy, unhappy workforce is less productive but also costly, estimated in the billions of dollars annually, due to absenteeism and presenteeism. Simply stated, businesses that actively promote behavioral health will thrive along with their employees.

Where does one start with Workplace Behavioral Health? interact

Although the size of a business may dictate programming and complexity of benefits, both business leadership and employees will benefit from the following actions:

Educate – Fortunately, there are numerous reputable agencies and companies focusing on business health and growth, that produce a wealth of infographics, brochures, and videos on behavioral health in the workplace. Regular dissemination of easy to consume behavioral health information helps ensure the company has a shared knowledge base and reinforces the value the company places on behavioral health.

Support - Timely support can come in many forms to include face-to-face, phone, and online services. Collect your local and national emergency resources and ensure that this information is regularly disseminated and made available for immediate reference while employees work at home. These resources can include insurance-based nurse advice lines, insurance contact information (phone/online), and Employee Assistance programs (EAP). Both small and large businesses should ensure that their employees are aware of community resources including medical and mental health clinics (not requiring insurance) and crisis hotlines (e.g., 800-273-TALK).

Solicit Feedback – Although business revenue and employee income can be markers of business success, they are insufficient to understand where and how workplace behavioral health can be improved. One approach may be toquantify obtainable measures, e.g. absenteeism data, health insurance costs or use of employment perks.However, the easiest way to explore needs is by soliciting direct feedback from your employees using suggestion boxes and satisfaction or climate surveys of the employee work experience. Start by determining how your company measures workplace behavioral health needs and how you provide behavioral health support. Consider how you are supporting your employees during challenging times, not just pandemics, relative tolife demands such as medical and mental health illnesses, workplace conflict, marital/family well-being, or financial well-being.

Promoting workplace behavioral health can be daunting. However, fostering a business culture that promotes behavioral health wellness and connects it to your business mission will sustain your people and in turn, your business. Because every business is about people and healthy people create a thriving business.

Our website contains a listing of additional resources and an example email to your employees. If your company needs help with strategy planning to navigate the turbulent business waters of this pandemic, we are here to help. We have free consultations, business assessments, and suggestions to assist you resolve your immediate needs. Contact us at .

We are all in this together, and together, we will make it through.


Dr. Belinda Powell is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of aggregated experience in both behavioral health and medical services. As a Veteran who's worked in both the private and government sectors of patient care and customer service, she strives to synthesize the complexities of behavioral health to optimize the accessibility to the individualized business and its employees. Connect with Dr. Powell on LinkedIn.

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