Local firms could be losing nearly $300 million annually in wages and productivity through mental health or stress-related absence from work, a new report has shown.
BY BUSINESS REPORTER
According to the report by Industrial Psychology Consultants (IPC), the figure could be higher if all employees with mental health problems were seeking treatment.
“… our estimate is that companies are losing over $296 161 600 per year in wages and productivity through mental health or stress related absence from work (estimates arrived at using current employment figures and a median wage of $560),” IPC said, adding that the figure excludes costs of treating mental health-related illness for the same employees.
IPC said due to stigma, a number of employees preferred traditional treatment methods to visiting clinics and hospitals.
Although IPC did not give reasons for the increase in stress-related ailments, analysts have blamed the deteriorating economic environment for fuelling such ailments.
The deteriorating economic environment has seen companies struggling to pay salaries, in what analysts equate to wage theft.
The potential loss comes as a survey showed that 72,3% of the Zimbabwean workforce was in distress (strongly elevated) and 27,7% were under the moderately elevated category.
“This category is characterised by; worry, difficulty in thinking clearly, feeling down and depressed, disturbed sleep, easily irritated, lack of energy, tense, easily becoming emotional, no longer having interest in people and things. Other symptoms experienced by this distressed group include feeling like they can’t do anything anymore and can’t face it anymore,” IPC said.
The survey showed that 100% of the working population was experiencing a depression with all of them in the strongly elevated category.
IPC said all the observed symptoms indicate the level of occupational stress experienced by the Zimbabwean workforce was much higher than what has been observed in other countries.
“The workplace is probably the best place to raise awareness about mental health problems. There is need for the corporate world to recognise this,” it said.
The report showed that 100% of the working population experienced anxiety with all of them in the strongly elevated category.
Symptoms experienced by this category include vague feelings of fear, trembling when with others, panic attacks, feeling frightened and fear of going out of the house alone, IPC said.
The survey showed that 74,3% of the working population in Zimbabwe experience somatisation (when physical symptoms are caused by mental [psychological] or emotional factors) and 25,7% are under the moderately elevated category.
IPC said the symptoms experienced include; headache, painful muscles, back pain, bloated feeling in the abdomen, neck pain, blurred vision, dizziness or feeling light-headed, nausea or an upset stomach, pressure or a tight feeling in the chest, pain in the chest, tingling in the fingers, excessive sweating, palpitations and fainting.