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Mental Health is a Bottom Line Issue
When Philip Burguieres first noticed symptoms of depression he was CEO of Weatherford International, and at the top of his game. He had a beautiful family, nice house, and the respect and admiration of his peers. What he didn’t have was peace of mind and joy in everyday living.
Mr. Burguieres, Chairman and CEO of EMC Holdings and Vice Chairman of the Houston Texans NFL team, was the keynote speaker at the recent Mental Health Association event; “Creating Workplaces That Thrive: An Employer Symposium on Mental Health and the Bottom Line.” Burguieres talked about his own battle with depression and his experiences with the health care delivery system.
“At least a quarter of all CEO’s suffer from depression, but they won’t admit it,” according to Burguieres. “They hide it. They know all the tricks. They see their psychiatrists at six in the morning, and they pay in cash.” He insists that corporate executives must be willing to face their own mental health issues, or they will not be able to help employees maximize health, well being, and productivity in the workplace.
There remains a stigma related to mental health that does not exist for other medical situations. Yet mental illness drains billions of dollars a year from businesses bottom line. Consider:
- Lost productivity and absenteeism due to mental illness cost business $63 billion dollars last year according to New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. This figure represents an increase from $43.7 billion just two years ago.
- Depression tends to affect people in the prime of their careers when they should be most productive.
- A RAND Corporation study found that patients with depressive symptoms spend more days in bed than those with diabetes, arthritis, back problems, or gastrointestinal disorders.
- More than $11 billion in additional costs resulted from decreased productivity due to problems with concentration, memory, and decision-making.
Bill Herman from Highsmith, Inc. also presented at the symposium, outlining the comprehensive approach to wellness at Highsmith to fight the high costs of healthcare. Located in Ft. Atkinson, WI, Highsmith is a privately owned distributor of supplies, furniture, and equipment. In 1989, they experienced a 53% increase in insurance premiums and initiated a multifaceted program to create a “culture of choice” where “wellness” and “employee development” are interchangeable.
While the Highsmith wellness program is voluntary, participants receive a discount on health insurance premiums if they participate. They must also be non-smokers and participate in annual health screenings. Employees have access to a comprehensive array of classes including weight management, healthy cooking, parenting, tobacco cessation, mental health screenings, and diabetes awareness. There are also stretching programs throughout the facility where employees stretch and flex to prevent injury. There is a 24/7 access to an employee assistance program, with resources for dependant, financial, and elder care coordination. With on-site exercise classes and a walking path, the expectation is that employees will actively participate in maintaining good physical and mental health.
The efforts at Highsmith have paid off. Their insurance premiums have risen only 4.9% per year versus the national average of 12.6%. The worker’s compensation discounts and dividends average 31% less than the base rate over the last ten years. They have also seen a reduction in health risk factors such as total cholesterol and hypertension decrease by 53% in the last four years. And turnover is only 8.6%, further cutting costs.
A study released by the University of Michigan’s Depression Center found that companies that initiated policies and practices addressing mental health had employees with a high level of job satisfaction. Satisfied employees are more productive and more likely to provide service to keep customers satisfied. For more information on mental health and well being in the workplace, please visit www.mhamilw.org
Barbara Bartlein is the PeoplePro™. She helps businesses sell more goods and services by developing people. She can be reached at 888-747-9953, by email at: email@example.com or visit her Web site at www.ThePeoplePro.com.
Published in Networking Today, January 2005.
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