Market Opportunities: Creating Psychologically Healthy Workplaces

by Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff

Are you looking for ways to diversify your practice? If so, you might explore opportunities for helping organizations create psychologically healthy workplaces as job-related pressures continue to mount.

Both employees and employers are feeling the pinch. According to a 2008 national public opinion poll conducted by the American Psychological Association, more than two-thirds of men and women said that work is a significant source of stress and 60 percent of employees said they were less productive at work as a result of stress. Meanwhile, job stress is estimated to cost U.S. industry $300 billion a year in absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees.

Additional data substantiate the challenges and needs that are brought to bear in the workplace: 

  • In 1990, mental health disorders cost the U.S. economy almost $79 billion in lost productivity (Rice & Miller, 1996, as cited in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999).

  • Mood disorders are estimated to cost more than $50 billion per year in lost productivity and result in 321.2 million lost workdays (Kessler et al., 2006).

  • Fifty-six percent of employees say that job demands interfere with family or home responsibilities, while 47% say that home and family responsibilities interfere with job performance (American Psychological Association, 2008).

  • In a study of six large, private- and public-sector employers, modifiable risk factors were associated with approximately 25 percent of total group-level health expenditures (Anderson et al., 2000, p. 49).

  • A meta-evaluation of 56 peer reviewed journal articles on worksite health promotion programs shows an average 26.8 percent reduction in sick leave absenteeism, an average 26.1 percent reduction in health costs, an average 32 percent reduction in workers' compensation and disability management claims costs, and an average $5.81 savings for every dollar invested (Chapman, 2005).

Such factors highlight opportunities for psychologists to play important roles in helping organizations function effectively and take care of their most valuable asset: their employees. Whether working within the company or serving as a consultant or other outside professional, psychologists are involved in a variety of ways:

  • Assessing organizational needs

  • Designing, implementing and evaluating workplace programs

  • Directing and/or providing mental health as well as health and wellness services, for example, by heading up an EAP department.

  • Providing training and development, such as in stress management and other efforts focused on encouraging employees to make appropriate behavior changes

Future issues of PracticeUpdate will discuss in greater detail how practitioners are contributing their unique training and skills to benefit organizations and their employees.

APA and the APA Practice Organization are actively involved in educating employers and others about creating and maintaining psychologically healthy workplaces. More information is available online at the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program website.

References for the statistics listed above and a psychologically healthy workplace fact sheet are available online.