Mental Well-Being in the Workplace

The final paper in relation to Literature Review: Mental Health in the WorkplaceMethods & Results: Mental Health in the Workplace, and Discussion: Mental Health in the Workplace. Originally published by Misty Smith for PSY 444 at Southern New Hampshire University.

Abstract

Can employers benefit from hiring individuals with treated or treatable non-violent mental health issues? Or, should employers steer clear of any mental health-related topic when it comes to their employees? The following research delves into the hypothesis that employers who embrace individuals with treated or treatable non-violent mental health issues could be gaining valuable assets they would have otherwise ignored. The study takes on a four-year span covering two similar production factories with an array of volunteers consisting of newly hired, veteran employees, and human resource-management level employees. The participants were asked a series of personal questions via surveys over a four-year span designed to gauge if they had ever been diagnosed or treated for a mental illness, if they felt secure within their employment, and if they had developed any mental illness during their employment. Furthermore, human resource and management participants were asked questions about the nature of mental well-being and employer policies, including benefits and hiring processes. As a result of the collected data, the research shows that there is a direct correlation between an employees mental well-being and overall happiness in the workplace with lower turnover rates and higher confidence of management when employees are treated fairly when it comes to their mental health status.

Mental Well-being in the Workplace

The subject of mental health may not be a priority in most business plans, however, numerous mental health professionals believe that it should be (Walsh, 2011). There have been numerous studies showing how employers can benefit from hiring individuals with pre-existing but treatable/treated mental illnesses, and numerous more studies that show the benefits to employers who implement programs to safeguard their employees from future mental stress. However, are there failproof programs that fit every company as one? Should companies go beyond what is required by rules and regulations to ensure the mental well-being of their employees? What benefits are to be had for employers? It is this student’s hypothesis that employers do not need to steer away from the topic of mental health; instead, they should embrace it by giving opportunities to individuals with treated mental health issues while at the same time implementing programs that address the complete mental health needs of all of their employees as a whole, which will result in increased productivity, better physical health, and overall morale.

Literature Review

Studies have shown that when employees are not aware of the benefits their employer provides that they are more likely to not use them; this is especially true when it comes to mental health benefits (Kelloway, 2017). According to research conducted by Kelloway and reported in the article Mental health in the workplace: Towards evidence-based practice (2017), the economic impacts to companies who have employees who are suffering from untreated mental health issues is vast and may include “…absenteeism, presenteeism, reduced productivity, increased turnover, and host of other organizational behaviors” (Kelloway, 2017). In fact, according to Kelloway, insurance companies have reported that upwards of 70% of claims in regard to both long-term and short-term disabilities can be attributed to mental-health related illnesses (Kelloway, 2017).




However, as Kelloway points out, although more experts are attempting to address mental health issues within the workforce, there are few empirically studied and confirmed programs that can be used by companies as a standard of prevention or care (Kelloway, 2017). One such attempt, discussed in the article, as a standard which companies could go by was implemented in 2013 by the title of Promulgation of the CSA Z1003 which was based upon four common pillars of interest (Shain, Arnold, & GermAnn, 2012). The pillars included, “…requiring organizations to have a corporate commitment to improving psychological health and safety, to have leadership commitment to the issue, to involve employees in the identification of workplace issues and the design of workplace programs, and to ensure the confidentiality of individuals” (Kelloway, 2017). However, according to Kelloway, the standard was flawed in various ways, including, “..there is not a strong evidence base that provides guidance as to what are the most effective workplace strategies…[and] much of the focus has been on what occupational health psychologists refer to as primary prevention activities…” (Kelloway, 2017). Kelloway suggests that more than prevention needs to be addressed, and programs must be designed to intervene in non-workplace mental-health situations that may arise with employees, and programs must also be developed to accommodate employees with pre-existing mental health problems  (Kelloway, 2017). It is of this student’s opinion that Kelloway’s suggestions for improvements in the standards of mental-wellbeing programs within companies are valid and should be studied further.

Another debated subject in regard to mental health in the workplace concerns the treatment, whether positive or negative, of individuals with mental health issues. In the article Discrimination and positive treatment toward people with mental health problems in workplace and education settings: Findings from an Australian National Survey, the authors set out to discuss the findings of research surveys conducted in Australia pertaining to the topic of mental health discrimination in the workplace (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). The survey was conducted via telephone and had a total of 5,220 participants, all over the age of 18. Of the 5,220 total participants, it was found that 1,381 self-reported that they suffered from a mental health issue or were found to be at a high risk of having a mental health issue at the time of the survey (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017).

The research conducted by the authors consisted of sociodemographics questions such as “…age, gender, marital status, postcode, country of birth, language spoken at home, level of education…” (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017) using the Kessler 6 (K6) mental health symptom screening Questionnaire. The K6 uses a 12-month scale and questions pertaining to depression, anxiety, confirmed mental problems, or the feeling of emotional stress in any one particular month in the previous 12-month time frame (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). Furthermore, participants were asked if they had felt the need to avoid social situations or had been discriminated against because of any mental well-being issues they had reported (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). If the participants had not experienced any mental health issues during the time allotment of the K6 survey they were asked about any individuals they may have known or been in contact with who had mental health issues, and if they had been the subject of discrimination in the workplace to their knowledge.

According to the authors, employment can play a vital role in the mental wellbeing of any individual, as employment provides a determining factor in social settings such as connecting with other individuals, self-esteem, and a means to prevent economic-based stress (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). Statistics discussed by the authors show that only 62% of individuals who self-reported mental illness was unemployed, whereas 80% of individuals who reported no cases of mental illness were employed (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). “Studies of employers’ attitudes toward employees with mental health problems have shown relatively low levels of awareness and limited capacity to deal with these issues in the workplace” (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). Correspondingly, the conducted research showed that 26.9% of the participants suggested that mental health issues were dismissed in the workplace due to a lack of understanding that the “…illness was real, or that it was serious and caused suffering, or did not understand how mental health problems can affect behavior and work performance…” (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). Other reported issues in the workplace from those suffering from mental health related issues included being denied opportunities (51.4%), being fired or demoted from their positions (15.1%), and isolation from the other employees (5.0%) (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017).

On the other hand, the research suggested that not all workplace experiences were on the negative side of the scale. 54.3% of the research respondents reported that they had received help or support in relation to their mental wellbeing by their employer (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). 19.4% had received a leave of absence and 18.1% reported that their schedules had been made more flexible in order to alleviate any stressors (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017). Furthermore, 7.3% reported that they were encouraged to receive professional help outside of the workplace using their benefits (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017).

The study provided a starting point for further research into the discrimination of employees and potential employees within company settings. However, the study was one-sided as it was conducted only via the answers of unvetted phone participants and did not include any verified facts or company statistics. This student suggests that such research should be expanded to include the policies the benefit packages, the turnaround, and profit/loss reports of the companies in question.

Furthering the discussion into the treatment of individuals with treated or treatable mental illness in the workplace is the question if employment is beneficial in the healing/prevention process. The article The Interconnection between Mental Health, Work and Belonging: A Phenomenological Investigation discusses research on the topic of belonging and mental health, with particular emphasis on workplace settings. According to the authors, employment “…helps to secure personal finances, gives structure to everyday life, creates belonging and increases self-esteem…” (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017). However, the author admits that the research into how a person with pre-existing mental health issues and their needs of belonging manifest in workplace settings is lacking, and that is what they set out to investigate (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017).

The authors state that belonging in society creates a pathway to healing for individuals who may suffer from mental illness; however, their question was does a sense of belonging in a workplace have similar, positive results? The research was conducted from a pool of individuals who were, or had received, mental health support and services on a professional level. Furthermore, the participants in the research were sought by using an online Norweigan website that was designed to cater to individuals who suffered from mental illness who were seeking employment opportunities. The number of responses to the research request was thirteen individuals, with three individuals completing a detailed interview with the researchers (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017).




By using phenomenology techniques the researchers were able to analyze the information obtained by the participants and condense it into 135 pages of text. The researchers were then able to decipher if the participants benefited from a sense of belongingness within the workplace setting. “When feeling fragile, one appeals to those trusted for care and intimacy; when feeling underrated, one insists on being appreciated on the basis of common standards of professionalism” (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017). However, the researchers learned that many of the participants had not always felt acceptance and belonging, but had been treated badly in previous work settings with statements such as, “I skipped lunch. I withdrew from the others because of all the negative talking; I couldn’t fix it. I wasn’t strong enough” (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017). On the other hand, some participants noted that they had held positions where they had been made to feel accepted and needed, which in turn boosted their self-esteem and sense of overall well-being, “I’ve never before been so relieved, never felt so at ease, and most of all, never been so sure that I belonged” (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017). In each case of being made to feel accepted the participant had reported an increased desire to express pride in the tasks they had been assigned, hence increasing overall productivity (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017).  As a result of their research, the authors conclude that the leadership in workplaces need to be trained to handle situations with sensitivity, which results in a better sense of belonging for the employees when situations arise that may need to be corrected (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017). However, the research conducted and reported in this article could be considered incomplete due to the small pool of research participants. In the future, further studies should be conducted that would include a much larger population.

Further investigation is also needed in the hiring processes of employers. For example, the authors of the article Bias in hiring applicants with mental illness and criminal justice involvement: A follow-up study with employers discuss the research on the subject of bias by employers in relation to individuals who suffer from mental illness and criminal activities. With specific emphasis on,

“…examine[ing] the effects of psychoeducation and personal experience on the probability that a job applicant with mental illness and/or prior CJ involvement will be considered for hire, and (2) evaluate the possible cumulative disadvantages associated with the labels “offender” and “mentally ill” among a sample of raters with experience in human resources” (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017).

Research participants were selected from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) membership and consisted of a pool of 70 individuals (84.5% female, 15.5% male) (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017). The research was conducted online in a survey via Qualtrics and included four case stories in which the participants were instructed to read one. The first case selection was “..describing a hypothetical job applicant who is an individual with a mental illness…” (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017), the second case was in relation to “..an individual with prior CJ involvement” (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017), the third case involved “…an individual with a mental illness and prior CJ involvement…” (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017), and the final case selection consisted of “…an individual who has neither a mental illness nor a history of CJ involvement…” (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017).

Analysis of the results shows that while there was little or no differences in the participants who selected the cases with criminal justice, the same could not be stated for the cases of mental illness (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017). Familiarity with criminal justice cases was normal, however, “…participants who read about an applicant with MI [mental illness] did differ with respect to how familiar they were with this population…” (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017). Furthermore, results of the research project showed that individuals with mental illness and criminal justice backgrounds were less desirable as a hiring pool, with only the participants who had also received psychoeducational materials in addition to the case studies more likely to hire those individuals (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017).

The study shows that a lack of education on the subject of mental illness and employees does have an impact on the hiring process. Therefore, one could conclude that companies train their human resource departments on various mental health issues, as to provide a familiarity with the hiring process. This study could be continued in the future with follow up surveys of human resource personnel who could be given a psychoeducational model to go by during the hiring process.

Finally, we can further delve into the topic of stigmas within employer hiring processes with the article The stigma of mental illness in the labor market set out to prove or disprove the lasting stigma of mental illness in the workplace. According to the authors, “A body of research on the stigmatization of mental illness focuses on perceptions of those who have been stigmatized (stigma targets), finding that those with mental illness diagnoses generally believe that they face negative treatment based on their illnesses” (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016).  Many studies, according to the authors, have used self-reported data as indications of discrimination based on mental illness issues in the workplace. However, in-field research on mental illness stigmas and bias have been hard to locate or are hard to come by. One main reason that is normally used for a lack of consideration when hiring individuals with pre-existing mental health issues comes from a lack of understanding on the issues which can lead to a false belief that the potential employee could be a danger to themselves or others (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016).  

The researchers proposed two hypotheses: first, “Applicants with a history of mental illness will receive fewer callbacks from employers than applicants with a history of physical injury” (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016) and second, “…the negative effect of mental illness on an applicant’s chances of being called back will be lower if the job may be performed away from the office” (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016). The method of research conducted consisted of applications for employment being submitted under the false pretense of the applicant having a pre-existing mental health issue. The application that was submitted was for a male whose profile had been designed to be one that was prestigious and overly qualified, with his ethnic background being kept ambiguous. Four conditions were to be met with the application process which consisted of,

“Condition 1: The candidate had a history of mental illness and was applying for a standard job posting; Condition 2: The candidate had a history of mental illness and was applying for a job that could be done mostly from home; Condition 3: The candidate had a history of physical injury and was applying for a standard job posting; Condition 4: The candidate had a history of physical injury and was applying for a job that could be done mostly from home” (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016).

The applications were then submitted to a 22-city market to a total of “635 jobs from June 2011 to May 2012” (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016). Results indicated a call back rate of in excess of 20% when no mental illness had been indicated on resumes, 14.81% for the resumes that listed mental illness, and 21.86% for the resumes that listed physical injuries only (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016). The results showed that the second hypothesis could not be verified, however, the first hypothesis showed data correlation. For example, “Candidates with a history of mental illness – compared to those with a history of physical injury – were 45.6% less likely to elicit callbacks, controlling for other variables in the model”  (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016).




While this study provided data that stigma and bias were evident in the initial hiring process of companies, it did not provide details for any bias that may have occurred during a face-to-face interview process (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016). Another restriction of the research study was that it was limited to one employment sector which used the same male candidate, albeit with slight differences in the resume. Therefore, it is this student’s opinion that further studies should include a broader spectrum of employment fields and a larger pool of candidates.

Research Design

Can employers design and implement programs that address invention, prevention, and accommodations in relation to their employees’ mental well-being? Will such programs be beneficial to all involved? Studies have shown that for individuals who suffer from mental illnesses, acceptance in the workplace can lead to a boost in both productivity in work-related tasks and lead toward the healing of numerous mental illness diagnoses (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017). Furthermore, studies have also shown that the hiring process of individuals with mental illness can be biased due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of mental illness by human resource professionals (Batastini, Bolaños, Morgan, & Mitchell, 2017).  

However, most studies have been limited in scope and design, with small populations being included which has not lead to global standardized practices. For example, there seems to be a gap in relation to research that would lead to effective hiring policies that start with mental health education and training for human resource professionals. Next, a standard set of recommendations that not only set the bar for protecting employees with pre-existing mental health conditions but also to safeguard all employees from undue stressors that could lead to mental health issues need to be explored. Therefore, the research design that this student proposes is an evaluation of companies current mental health policies and procedures in comparison to employee turnover and productivity. The study can be conducted via interviews and questionnaires including current employees, potential employees, and management. Further data used would consist of financial and productivity statistic reports. Sample questions can relate to the hiring policy concerning those with mental illness, the benefits offered to employees in relation to mental illness and wellbeing, turnover in personnel, and the overall happiness of employees. The results of the study can then be used to locate areas within company policies and programs that need improvement, which will lead to new more effective policies being implemented.

As outlined above, when employers bypass hiring individuals who have known mental illnesses, they could be passing by an opportunity of adding a valuable asset (Solomon, 1986).  Furthermore, employers who do not implement safeguards within their company structure that addresses the mental health of employees they could end up facing financial loss (Kelloway, 2017). Studies have shown that mental illness is a stigma that is haunting the majority of the job market worldwide. However, with further research and development, the stigmas can be disseminated and programs which benefit all employees and their employers could be developed.

Method

Participants

The participants of the study were broken down into four groups from two companies. Both Company A and Company B were in the manufacturing sector and produced similar products for the automobile industry. The location of the companies was in a small town in the Southeastern section of the United States, population 1,268. First, at Company A, management and human resource personnel were selected on a volunteer basis and consisted of 14 individuals (5 men, 9 women, Mage= 35, age range: 26-54, Mlength=10 years, length of employment range: 1-25 years ). A mixture of 26 newly hired general labor (15 women, 11 men, Mage = 27 years, age range: 18-52 years) and 26 veteran general labor employees (17 men, 9 women, Mage =29, age range 21-49) were selected via a volunteer signup through the human resource department of Company A, who employees a total of 162 full-time employees. Length of employment requirements for newly hired participants was set at 90 days or less (Mlength= 45.5 days, length of employment range 14-90 days). Length of employment requirements for veteran employees was set at 3 or more years (Mlength= 6.5, length of employment range; 3-31 years). A comparison group of individuals from Company B was recruited using the same volunteer signup method, Company B employed a total of 159 full-time employees at the time of the study. Company B management and human resource personal was also selected on a volunteer basis and consisted of 12 individuals (6 men, 6 women, Mage=36, age range: 25-50, Mlength=12 years, length of employment range: 2-20 years). Newly hired participants from Company B also included 26 individuals from the general labor employee base (12 women, 14 men, Mage=28, age range: 18-49 years) and 26 veteran general labor employees (14 women, 15 men, Mage=32 years, age range: 21-64 years). Company B participants were given the same employment length provisions of 90 days maximum (Mlength=31.5 days, length of employment range: 15-90 days) and 3 years minimum (Mlength=10.5 years, length of employment range: 3-41 years).

Participants were not given any compensation for their voluntary participation in the study.  Furthermore, study participants were informed that their participation would have no effect on their work positions as the study would be designed to prevent their identity from being known when the results were listed. For example, results would reference employees in such a manner as to not disclose their personal information (Employee X: Company A). Participants were given directions on how to follow the results via the internet as the study was set to take 4 years to complete.

Materials and Procedure

Custom surveys conducted in an interview setting with participants were used to collect data for the study with medians calculated from the total of individual answers submitted in the self-answer section of the surveys with a comparative analysis of data based upon Spearman’s rank-order correlation (Puth, Neuhäuser, & Ruxton, 2015). During the initial phase of the study, the general labor participants from each company were given a three-part survey to complete. Survey section one consisted of 6 questions designed to gauge if the participant had been diagnosed with a mental illness (depression, anxiety, personality disorder, autism spectrum, other) before becoming an employee. For example, if the participant selected that they had a prior diagnosis, they were then asked if they had received and completed mental health treatment.  Survey section two was designed to detail the hiring process and ongoing employment status in relation to mental illness and consisted of 4 questions. In the second section, participants were asked questions such as if they had experienced mental health issues, and if the were aware of mental health benefit packages offered by Company ‘X’. Finally, in section three of the initial survey, employees were asked 6 questions pertaining to how management handled instances of mental health in relation to employees and if they felt as if they could use any benefits without negative consequences. Also during the initial study phase management and human resource participants were given a survey to complete in an interview setting. The survey was one part and consisted of 8 questions that covered both personal mental health issues, the hiring process of potential employees who had suffered from mental illnesses and training of management geared at mental health needs.

The second part of the study was completed four years after the initial surveys. During the four-year span, Company A had completed an upgrade of their mental health benefit packages, prevention methods, and training procedures based upon recommendations set by McCague Borlack LLC (Gowan & Robbins, 2012), whereas Company B had not changed their practices or procedures from the time of the initial surveys and when the interviews were conducted. The initial general labor participants from the start of the study were requested to complete a follow-up survey interview. Participants were asked questions about their continuing employment with Company ‘X’; if no longer employed, the reasoning behind employment separation was discussed. Furthermore, questioning pertaining to the company’s ongoing or updated policies were discussed with participants. In the same method, initial management and human resource personnel were re-interviewed at the end of the four year period and questions pertaining to ongoing or updated hiring processes, mental health benefits, training procedures, and company profit and losses were discussed.




Results

The results of the surveys showed that 26.67% (see Table 1) of Company A new hire women participants and 27.27% (see Table 1) of male new hire participants reported a previous mental illness prior to employment. Veteran employees of Company A reported 44.44% (see Table 1) of the women participants had experienced mental illness before hiring, and 29.41% (see Table 1) of the male participants had reported a previous mental illness. Company A newly hired women reported as a 33.33% (see Table 1) rate had experienced a new mental illness diagnosis after hiring, whereas 0% (see Table 1) of the newly hired men reported a new mental illness diagnosis since the the beginning. Company A veteran employees reported a new mental illness diagnosis since hiring as 22.22% for participating women and 11.76% for participating men (see Table 1). Company B new hire female participants reported a 25% rate of a previous mental illness with 0% new mental illness being reported since being hired (see Table 2). Male new hire participants from Company B reported as 7.14% pre-existing mental illnesses and 0% newly diagnosed mental illness since being hired (see Table 2). In comparison, veteran female employees of Company B reported a 21.43% rate of previous mental illness and a 28.57% of new mental health diagnoses since being hired (see Table 2). Male veteran employees reported an 8.33% of prior mental illness and a 16.67% rate of mental illness after being hired.

Section two of the survey consisted of questions surrounding management and human resources inquiring about previous and current mental health status. Company A new hire female participants reported that 6.67% had been asked previously to hiring about their mental health status with 6.67% being asked after they were hired in (see Table 3). Company A male new hire participants reported that 27.27% had been asked about previous mental health status during the interview stages with 27.27% also being asked after being hired in (see Table 3). Company A veteran female employees reported that 11.1% had been questioned about previous mental health prior to being hired and 44.44% reported being questioned again during their employment (see Table 3). However, Company A male veteran employees reported that 0% had been questioned prior to employment and 17.65% questioned after employment commenced (see Table 3). In comparison, Company B newly hired female participants reported that 33.33% had been asked about previous mental illness during the hiring process, and 0% being questioned after the hiring process (see Table 4). Company B newly hired male participants showed a larger percentage of 71.43% reported being questioned during the hiring process and 35.71% being questioned after being hired on (see Table 4). Veteran women employee participants from Company B also showed a larger percentage of 71.43% and 83.33% (see Table 4) of male participants reporting that they were questioned during the hiring process. In addition, 57.14% (see Table 4) of the veteran female employees reporting being questioned after the hiring process, and finally, 58.33% (see Table 4) of the veteran male participants reported being questioned after the hiring process.

Section 3 of the survey discussed how employees viewed the company for which they worked. 66.67% (see Table 5) of new female hires stated they had witnessed management treat employees with mental illnesses in a negative manner; however, 54.55% (see Table 5) of newly hired male participants reported that they had seen management mistreat employees with mental illnesses. 26.67%  of new female hires and 18.18% (see Table 5) of new male hire participants reported that they felt they had been treated poorly by management. Confidence levels in management by newly hired participants was at 26.67% for females and 45.45% (see Table 5) for males. Both male and female hires were somewhat low when it came to feeling appreciated by management with 46.67% of female and 54.55% of male participants reporting positively (see Table 5). 40% of newly hired males and 36.36% of newly hired females felt as if they were being overworked (see Table 5). However, 66.67% of newly hired female participants believed they had received adequate training and 90.91% of newly hired male participants agreed that their training had been adequate (see Table 5). Company A female veteran employees reported that they had witnessed the negative treatment of employees with mental illnesses at a rate of 66.67% and the males reporting a rate of 70.59%  (see Table 5). 33.33% of female veteran employee participants and 0% of veteran male participants for Company A reported being treated unfairly due to mental illness (see Table 5). Confidence in management was comparable to newly hired with 55.56% of female veteran employees and 47.06% of veteran male employees showing confidence. Veteran female employees displayed a high rate of belief in being appreciated at 88.98%, whereas veteran male employees showed only 58.82% believed they were appreciated by the company (see Table 5). 64.71% of veteran males and 44.44% of veteran female employees stated that they felt overworked (see Table 5). However, 100% of veteran female employees reported having adequate training and materials in comparison to 58.83% of veteran male employees in Company A.

In comparison, Company B initial survey results produced a 66.67% rate of the witness of mistreatment towards individuals with mental illnesses by management from newly hired female participants and only 28.57% newly hired males reporting witnesses such acts (see Table 6). Only 8.33% of newly hired female and 7.14% of newly hired males from Company B reported that they had been the victims of mistreatment (see Table 6). However, male new recruits showed a much higher percentage of confidence in management at 71.43% compared to only 25% of newly hired female participants (see Table 6). 71.43% of newly hired males felt appreciated at Company B compared to 41.67% of newly hired females (see Table 6). Newly hired females at Company B reported feeling overworked at a rate of 58.33% compared to a lower 21.43% reported rate from newly hired males (see Table 6). Adequate training and materials were reported by 75% of newly hired females and 71.43% of newly hired males at Company B (see Table 6). Company B veteran employees showed an increase in the witness of other employees being mistreated by management for having mental illnesses with 85.71% of veteran female employees reporting being a witness and 58.33% of veteran men confirming such acts occur (see Table 6). However, only 28.57% of veteran female employees and 16.67% of veteran male employees reported that they had been treated unfairly (see Table 6). Confidence in management among veteran employees was low with veteran female employees reporting a confidence level of only 21.43% and males only 25%.Veteran male and female employees reported a range of 42-50% in the feeling of being appreciated, whereas they reported a range of 64%-66% being overworked. Veteran employee participants at Company B were comparable in percentages of agreement on adequate training of materials with ranges of 58%-64% (see Table 6).

The follow-up reports conducted after 4 years’ time showed that 12 of the 15 previous newly hired female participants and 9 of the 11 previously newly hired male participants still worked at Company A (see Table 7). Seven of the previous veteran female employees were remaining at Company A out of the initial 9, and 12 of the initial 17 veteran male employees remained as active employees (see Table 6). Improvement to work conditions were reported by 10 of the remaining previous newly hired participants and by 8 of the remaining previously newly hired male participants (see Table 6). Company A previous veteran employee participants were recorded at 7 remaining female and 12 remaining males, with 6 of the females reporting a marked improvement in work conditions and 12 of the males reporting an improvement (see Table 6).

Company B, which did not receive the suggested policy changes, showed a drastic decline in employment and morale when the original participants were revisited after 4 years. Only 8 of the original 12 newly hired female employees remained, alongside 13 of the original 14 males (see Table 8). However, only 1 previously newly hired female reported that the workplace had improved for employees in Company B (see Table 8). Of the 14 previous female veteran employees surveyed in the initial process, only 10 remained, with only 1 reporting an improved workplace. The percentages reported by previous male veteran employees was more drastic as only 5 of the original 12 remained with none reporting an improvement.

The initial surveys conducted with human resources and management of Company A concluded that 5 of  9 of the women participants hired individuals with treatable/functioning mental illnesses with 6 of 9 being satisfied with Company A’s mental well-being policies (see Table 9). In comparison, 3 out of 5 male members of management and human resources stated that they would hire individuals with treatable/functioning mental illnesses with the same number being satisfied with Company A’s mental well-being policies (see Table 9). After the 4-year follow-up survey, it was found that 100% of the initial human resource and management participants were still employed by company A (see Table 9).

The follow-up stats showed an increase with 7 of the women and 4 of the men willing to hire individuals with treatable/functioning mental illnesses and 8 of the women and 5 of the men pleased with the direction of Company A’s mental well-being policies. In stark contrast, Company B showed a major change in employment numbers while not providing much in change for hiring policies. Out of the original 6 women from Company B who participated, only 2 remained (see Table 10). However, out of the 6 men from Company B who initially participated, 5 were remaining after the 4-year period (see Table 10). Initially, 2 women and 6 men from the human resource and management positions within Company B would consider hiring individuals with treatable/functioning mental illnesses with 4 being satisfied with the companies policies (see Table 10). The male participants from Company B initially reported that none would hire individuals with treatable/functioning mental illness and that 5 of the 6 were satisfied with company policy. After 4 years, the 2 remaining women participants stated that they were not inclined to hire individuals with treatable/functioning mental illnesses and that they were both satisfied with Company B’s policies (see Table 10). The follow up showed that the 5 remaining males would also not be inclined to hire individuals with treatable/functioning mental illness and that they were all also satisfied with company policy.

Discussion

The hypothesis that was set to be answered by this study was if employers embraced treatable mental illnesses that they would see an increase in productivity, better health, and overall morale amongst their employees. The two companies selected for the study provided what is believed to be a comparable group of volunteers with various backgrounds. The study depended upon the volunteers to be as upfront and honest as possible when answering the questions that were presented. In order to limit bias in the data, volunteers were random and not assigned by management, not offered incentives, conducted in multiple phases, and the privacy of their data was kept as the utmost importance (Tourangeau, Brick, Lohr, & Li, 2017).  The survey results show both correlations that support the original hypothesis and opens the door to entirely new studies for the future. For reference, the surveys conducted listed mental illnesses as the following choices: depression, anxiety, personality disorders, autism spectrum, or other.

In today’s society, a re-emergence of questions about mental health in correlation to the safety of individuals has been gaining grounds within the hiring and continuing employment processes of companies both small and large (Kelloway, 2017). Therefore, as previously stated the study presented within that paper used questions designed to assess employees prior and current mental health status, their confidence levels in regards to management, and their overall happiness with there employment. Furthermore, management and human resource volunteers were questioned to establish their outlooks on hiring policies and their happiness with their companies overall policies in regards to mental health and employees.




However, were the questions to the survey answered truthfully? Or were they answered with a lingering fear of loss of employment on the volunteers’ mind? The first set of question showed the frequency of reported mental illness within the volunteer pool. With Company A we found that the majority of new hire were comparable in numbers reporting previous and new cases of mental illness (see Table 1); however, with Company B the numbers were much lower in relation to the volunteers who reported previous or new instances of illness (see Table 2). When comparing these numbers to the results of the rest of the survey and the human resource and management survey answers, we can infer that it was possible that although privacy was promised to the participants, they may not have felt safe to answer with complete honesty. An example can be seen in the answers from Employee W1NH: Company B: when asked if she had experienced any new mental illness since hiring she answered: “No”, however, when asked if she had witnessed any fellow employees being treated unfairly due to a mental illness she responded with a “Yes”. The same pattern of answers can be seen with participants Employee W2NH: Company B, Employee W4NH: Company B, Employee W5NH: Company B, and so forth, with the majority of those participants responding that they were no longer employed after the four-year cycle and attributing their lack of employment on management practices. Discrimination of employees within the workplace has been a topic of discussion in numerous studies, as discussed earlier with the works of Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, who stated that upwards of 62% of their study participants were unemployed due mainly to a lack of understanding of mental health issues by employers (Reavley, Jorm, & Morgan, 2017).

As part of the study, Company A was given a list of suggestions on how they could improve their policies in relation to the mental well-being of there employees. The suggestions started with an outline of how to approach employees suspected of needing help with their mental well-being and included training management to understand an array of mental illnesses, having materials on hand explaining benefits, and how to make sure the employee felt safe and secure during any discussions of possibly using any said benefits (Gowan, & Robbins, 2012). Furthermore, management professions were advised to ask their employees what they needed, as per reasonable accommodations, while also letting the employee know that they need not reveal their medical details in order to use their benefits or be treated fairly (Gowan, & Robbins, 2012).

The results of implementing the suggested changes to company policy can be seen in the follow-up survey of remaining employees. 21 of the 26 new hire participants remained with Company A, with 18 of those 21 individuals stating that their work environment had improved due to updated policies and procedures from management (see Table 7). Company A veteran employee participants reported that 19 of the original 26 participants remained, with 18 of 19 stating an increase in their work environments since the original survey (see Table 7). On the other hand, Company B was not instructed in methods of change, nor did they implement any changes in policy on their own account. As a result, the results of employee retention and happiness can be seen as a stark contrast with Company A. Company B results showed that while 21 of the 26 new hire participants remained, only 1 of those 21 stated that they had enjoyed an improved work environment (see Table 8). Similarly, 15 of the 26 original veteran employee volunteers from company B remained with only 1 of the 15 reporting any significant changes to policies that would result in improved work conditions (see Table 8). Future studies could delve further into the statistics equating the improved work environment with productivity profits and losses.

Furthermore, the study points towards validating other studies which state that providing work and acceptance can help the healing process of mental illnesses  (Tangvald-Pedersen & Bongaardt, 2017). Company B participants responded with 19 of the 52 original participants felt appreciated, with 8 of those 52 stating they had been treated unfairly on the job (see Table 6). However, Company B participants who had left the company during the 4-year span reported at 100% that they had left the company due to management actions (see Table 8). Whereas, only 1 of the 12 employees from Company A who were no longer with the company reported that they had left because of management or unfair policies (see Table 7).

The study also backed up previous data that suggested that individuals with previous or current mental illnesses were less likely to be hired  (Hipes, Lucas, & Phelan, 2016). In the survey conducted by human resources and management Company A, participants originally reported that 8 of the 14 would hire individuals with previous or currently being treated mental illnesses; in follow-up, 100% of the original human resource participants were still employed and the number had increased to 11 of 14 would hire individuals with previous or currently being treated mental illnesses (see Table 9). However, Company B once again showed their avoidance of individuals with previous or currently treated mental illnesses. Eight of the original 12 human resource participants stated that they would not consider hiring such individuals when revisited 7 of the 12 remained and 100% of the remaining stated they still would not hire individuals with treatable mental illnesses (see Table 10).

In summary, the conducted study showed an increase in morale and lower turn over rate for Company A, who had embraced and made changes to their company policies concerning mental health. In contrast, Company B, when revisited, showed that employees who remained from the original surveys were unhappy with their work environment and had no sense of trust for their employees. Limitations of the study include the interpretation of results could be considered biased as speculation of the “why” too many of the answers were used. Future studies could be conducted that delve into a deeper explanation of why employees were happy or unhappy with management. Also, further studies could look into more of the financial gains and losses of each company involved, if the results were of profits increasing and not just happiness and employment retention alone.

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