Boosting Mental Health in Your Workplace: How To Support Your Employees
Since May is Mental Health Awareness month, we have been thinking as a company about how we can better support our employees’ mental health. If you’re in the same boat, you may find the following tools to boost mental health in your workplace helpful.
Why Mental Health in Your Workplace Is Important
While many companies have highlighted physical health in recent years by offering health insurance coverage, blood pressure screenings, fitness programs, and other company-wide health initiatives, mental health care hasn’t been as much of a focus. But mental health is just as crucial to our well-being as physical health is. And when an employee struggles with mental health issues, their work suffers as well.
Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and contributes to a significant number of lost workdays. Stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues add to the problem, leaving many employees not only suffering personally, but less engaged, focused, and productive in their work.
What Employers Can Do To Support Employees’ Mental Health
There are many ways to support your employees and boost mental health in your workplace. Here are just a few:
Do a Self-Assessment as a Company.
Make an effort to honestly assess how your company manages and treats employees overall. Company leaders can have the most impact on their employees’ mental health by first understanding how to treat employees with grace in stressful times.
Consider taking an anonymous survey among your staff, or even bringing in a third party to do anonymous focus groups. Have employees answer questions like “Do you think the work is fairly distributed?” and “Do you feel like you have a good understanding of the work you’ve been asked to do?”
In addition, keep an eye on trends like worker absences for mental health reasons and usage of any employee assistance counseling programs you may have. Paying attention to these details can help you be more aware of when your employees are struggling.
Learn About and Share Mental Health Resources.
Explore what resources are available in your area for people struggling with their mental health, from county help lines, community organizations, and support groups to local counselors and therapists. To get you started, here is a great list of mental health hotlines available in Minnesota. And if you are unsure of which mental health resources your company’s healthcare plan covers, take some time to look into it. Then create a list of covered programs and therapy offices and make the list available to your staff.
One of the biggest hurdles for people needing mental health care is that they are unaware of the resources available to them. Providing your employees with a list of resources can bring them one step closer to finding help.
Model Healthy Vulnerability.
Another hurdle that keeps people from getting the help they need is the stigma that often comes with mental illness. The first step to combatting that stigma is to avoid treating mental health as a taboo subject and work to model openness and vulnerability among your company leadership.
Sharing your challenges (mental health related or otherwise) opens the door for others to feel comfortable sharing theirs. Model healthy behavior by sharing the ways you make your own mental health a priority, such as taking mid-day walks, going to a therapy appointment, or taking a mental health day to rest.
The Minnesota Department of Health offers free printable resources you can use to start conversations around mental health, including informational cards, fact sheets, and even postcards. Check them out here!
Invest in Staff Training.
Prioritize workplace mental health training for your entire staff, beginning with your leaders and managers. If you don’t yet have the budget to invest in company-wide training, consider starting mental health employee resource groups as a way to increase awareness, offer peer support, and build community among your staff.
Build a Culture of Safety.
Make sure your employees know it’s safe to seek help. Reassure them that their privacy is your top priority, and that their use of any mental health resources won’t be monitored, tracked, or used to deny them benefits such as promotions or raises.
Offer schedule flexibility whenever possible, and encourage staff to take mental health days off. Taking time off to rest and recharge is an important part of preventive mental (and physical) health care. Being flexible about employees’ work hours when possible can be a simple, low-cost way to support their mental health.
These are just a few ways you can support your employees and boost mental health in your workplace. Any methods you choose to incorporate can have a positive effect on not only the individual mental health of your employees, but on the overall culture and morale of your business.
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