Health, safety, and wellness are often viewed from a physical perspective in the workplace. While the physical aspect is real, an integrated approach to health, safety, and wellness looks beyond just the physical and is essential for overall worker well-being. Investing in supporting and improving mental health for workers can be a wise use of resources.
Observed during May, Mental Health Awareness Month brings awareness to mental health issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that 1 in every 5 adults in the US experiences mental illness each year. One of every 20 US adults lives with severe mental illness. Mental illness surrounds us and must be acknowledged and addressed to understand and promote protective physical, biological, and psychological factors that can decrease the risk of developing a mental illness or experiencing mental health distress.
After persevering through 3 long years of the worst public health crisis of our lifetime, our mental well-being has been challenged to the hilt. In addition to everyday stressors, the COVID pandemic produced higher-than-usual stress levels related to fear, loss, social isolation, and financial insecurity. Left unaddressed, this stress can lead to depression and anxiety and also contribute to physical issues.
Workplace programs and benefits such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), health insurance with mental health benefits, clinical screenings, and coaching services go a long way toward supporting workers’ mental well-being. There are other investments. However, that can also help workers live happy, healthy, and productive lives, both in and out of the workplace.
Wellness program offerings such as onsite MSK clinics staffed by licensed healthcare professionals support physical and mental well-being. Onsite healthcare professionals, including PTs, OTs, or Athletic Trainers, can be valuable partners in promoting resilience in the workplace by helping workers build adaptive ways to respond to their environment through ergonomics, job coaching, fitness, and other injury prevention activities.
Onsite MSK clinics can be the foundational component for making other programs more effective and, as such, pair nicely with other employer-sponsored offerings, including:
• exercise programs, • stress reduction seminars, • mindfulness/relaxation training, • nutrition classes, • educational offerings that help workers build and practice coping and relationship skills and self-care.
The onsite healthcare provider becomes a trusted resource for employees to talk to about health concerns. Physical and emotional health dimensions contribute to total wellness, so both must be addressed. While having an MSK clinic does not fix mental health concerns, its presence can effectively address workers’ minor aches and pains that might otherwise turn into injuries. Workers feel supported in the healing process, which helps alleviate fear and uncertainty.
Investing in an employee’s overall well-being and MSK health positively impacts all areas of their life. Their ability to perform their jobs, spend time with their families, and be out in nature are just a few benefits of investing in an onsite clinic and other wellness programs for employees.