Mental health refers to a person’s cognitive, behavioral, and emotional wellbeing – which affects how we think, feel, and behave. Some employees may suffer from poor mental health, or even suffer from a mental illness, a diagnosable health condition that can cause significant impairment in daily life. Additionally, an employee’s mental health can change over time depending on their stress-level, work-life balance, workload, and other factors.
According to a study published by Deloitte, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness each year but less than half undergo treatment for their condition. A second study released by the Mental Health in the Workplace Summit stated that mental illness was the leading cause of disability in U.S. adults between the ages of 15 and 44. It was also found that more workdays are lost to mental health issues than to any other type of illness or injury.
With these shocking statistics in mind, you can bet that there are likely some employees within your organization experiencing problems related to poor mental health or mental illness. Whether or not you are aware of such cases, it is important to maintain a work culture that supports employee mental health. In this article we will review a number of ways how this can be achieved.
- Increase Awareness About Mental Health in the Office
Not everyone is knowledgeable about mental health and those that are may have some unsound perceptions. Organizations have the opportunity to promote mental health awareness in the office and debunk any misconceptions that may be running amok.
Start by providing employees with helpful resources that they can use to learn more about mental health. You can also provide contact information to encourage those who are struggling with poor mental health to reach out to professionals. Do not be afraid to start an open dialogue about mental health as this can help employees feel more comfortable talking about the subject.
You can establish a work environment that is supportive of mental health conditions by:
- Providing employees with access to organized support groups and other means of social support.
- Creating an anonymous online portal where employees can discreetly go to let HR or managers know they are dealing with high stress levels or need help.
- Offering employee training opportunities designed to increase problem-solving techniques and boost conflict resolution and communication skills.
- Promoting your organization’s employee assistance program (EAP) if your business offers such a program.
A huge contributor to poor mental health is having an improper balance of work, play, and home life. By providing employees opportunities to create their own schedules, you can help improve their personal lives which in turn can increase motivation and productivity in the workplace. There are many ways that employers can offer more flexible scheduling at work, such as through telecommuting options, flextime, and unlimited paid time off (PTO) policies. Research has shown that when workers enjoy a healthier work-life balance, it can improve their overall wellbeing and job satisfaction.
A whopping 80 percent of Americans claim that their job is stressful. While some stress is normal, experiencing chronic stress in the workplace can contribute to a host of problems, such as irritability and fatigue. These consequences can not just affect your workers, but also the business as a whole. In fact, stress alone causes U.S. employers an average of $300 billion each year in lost productivity.
While eliminating all job stress is nearly impossible, there are ways that you can help employees better manage their stress for better mental health. First, it is important to understand what job stressors can contribute to poor mental health. These may include long work hours, heavy workloads, high pressure to perform, conflicts with co-workers or management, office politics, job insecurity, and excessive travel. To help reduce stress and increase morale, consider the following employee mental health tips:
- Assign appropriate and realistic workloads.
- Promptly address negative behaviors in the workplace and have a no tolerance policy when it comes to bullying.
- Host regular meetings with managers and employees to encourage open communication.
- Recognize employee achievements and provide incentives that will help keep stress to a minimum while increasing productivity.
Many employees rely on the benefits provided by their employer to maintain good health and wellbeing. Take the time to review these benefits to ensure that they align with your mental health initiative. Does your current health plan offer mental health services? If not, you may want to consider adding these benefits. You may also want to consider offering voluntary benefits to support well-being, such as employee discount programs for services like spa treatments or gym memberships. Another great perk to offer your employees is financial planning assistance to lower financial stress which can contribute to poor mental health.
There is an unquestionable stigma that surrounds mental health and not everyone knows what poor mental health looks like or how to address it. It is important that your managers are properly trained to recognize signs of mental illness, extreme workplace stress, and problems such as workplace fatigue and bullying. Managers should also receive training on how to properly handle employees suffering from poor mental health. While mental health training is provided, managers will feel more comfortable talking about the topic rather than avoiding it.
Approaching Mental Health in the Workplace
Employee mental health is a delicate topic that not many HR teams know how to approach. By raising awareness about mental illness and other mental health issues and implementing strategies to deal with these problems in a positive way, HR can better support employees who may need extra support. Creating a welcoming environment that allows for open communication can make a big difference in how employees think, feel, and act, both in and out of the office. When employees feel comfortable expressing themselves, it can be advantageous for everyone involved.