How To Develop A Company Culture That Prioritizes Mental Health
We all know that mental health problems in the workplace are on the rise and it's up to businesses to find ways to support their employees. Offering benefits like health insurance to cover mental health treatments can help, but you should also consider your company culture.
The company culture dictates the atmosphere in the office, the interpersonal relationships, the work-life balance, and the way that problems are managed. If you have a toxic company culture that doesn't value mental health and puts profits before the wellbeing of your employees, you will have systemic issues with mental health.
However, if you can create a culture that puts good mental health at the core of everything you do, you will have a happy workforce that is productive. It's important that you develop a culture from the top down, so your employees are always supported and good mental health is promoted in everything you do. These are some of the best ways to develop a company culture that prioritizes mental health.
Put Work-Life Balance Before Everything Else
Toxic workplaces that do not value mental health usually promote a poor work-life balance. Employees are expected to work long hours and even when they go home, they're answering emails and phone calls, so they never really get time to themselves. This lack of downtime leads to increased stress levels and mental health issues. If you want to build a positive company culture, you need to put work-life balance above everything else.
Make sure that people stick to their working hours and don't feel the need to answer emails and phone calls when they're at home. You should also encourage your employees to take their full holiday entitlement so they can recharge and relax when they get time off. You could even consider shortening the work day and even adopting a four-day work week.
When people are in the office, consider what their workload is like. If you have a number of employees that are constantly snowed under, that's a sign that you have a staff shortage and you need to bring more people on board to ease the workload.
Finally, you need to be flexible and understand that people have other responsibilities. If people need to come in an hour late because they have family responsibilities, for example, let them. Communicate to your employees that as long as the work gets done, you are happy for them to be a bit flexible with their hours.
Simple changes like these can make a huge difference to the work-life balance of everybody in the business, and that shows people that their mental health comes first.
Recognize The Hard Work Of Your Employees
Every job has its ups and downs, but for some people, the downs are far more challenging. Things like dealing with unreasonable customers or managing difficult staff members can be enough to cause serious stress, which leads to poor mental health.
Employees that have to deal with these kinds of things can quickly feel overwhelmed, so it's important to recognize the hard work they do every day fighting fires at work. When somebody is struggling in their role, try not to pile on more responsibility since this can exacerbate the problems of somebody who already feels overworked. Instead, provide them with ways that they can build resilience by using techniques that will help them cope with their workload.
Giving people recognition and letting them know you are grateful for the work they do makes such a huge difference. Mental health starts to suffer when people feel like they're just a cog in a machine, there to generate profit for a business that doesn't care about them. You don't need to reward people with huge bonuses and gifts all of the time, just make an effort to thank people.
Encouraging this kind of recognition between employees is good too, it shouldn't always come from you. There are some great peer to peer recognition programs to help you build this into your culture. When everybody is supporting one another and recognizing the hard work that everybody does, the atmosphere in the office is so much more positive.
Check In With Your Employees Regularly
To build a company culture that prioritizes mental health, you need to check in with your employees regularly. This lets them know that somebody is interested in how they are doing and can help highlight any problems early on.
Have regular informal meetings with employees or even just chat with them at their desks. Ask how everything is going and whether they are having any problems. You can't be everywhere all of the time, so somebody reaching out to somebody else is incredibly valuable.
Make sure that you are proactive about scheduling one-on-ones with your direct reports too. You need to check in on how they are doing and encourage them to talk about anything that might be causing them stress or frustration. This isn't just something you do once a year when their performance review comes around, it's regular meetings where people feel comfortable talking with you about their issues.
If you can manage problems early on, you can prevent excess stress from causing mental health problems in your employees.
Invest In Your Employees' Future
Investing in people's future by providing training and development opportunities is crucial. You need to give your employees the chance to grow and develop with your company.
Encouraging employees to take courses, attend conferences or even just work alongside somebody else is great for their professional development. When you help people pursue opportunities that will make them better at what they do, it makes them feel like they are more valuable to your business. You can invest in their future growth by supporting them as they pursue this kind of career development.
Not only does this help you improve mental health in the workplace but it also drastically increases productivity. You are helping people develop skills that directly benefit your business. It also reduces employee turnover because people want to stay with the business and continue to progress.
Give Lots Of Vacation Time
Vacation time is one of the best things you can give people if you want to improve their mental health. We all spend so much time at work and even if we have a good balance, we still need time off to recharge.
No matter how busy somebody is, they will always feel better after a couple of weeks away from the office. Giving people vacation time is great but you can do more to encourage this kind of rest and relaxation.
For example, you could promote flexible scheduling so that employees can take time off when they need it rather than following a rigid schedule. You might also encourage them to work remotely by providing equipment and technology if they need it.
Making sure your employees have plenty of vacation time and flexibility with their schedules helps everybody recharge after hard work. It's certainly not the only thing you should be doing to improve mental health in your workplace, but it's one of the most impactful.
Even when they are offered it, some people are still reluctant to take time off. So, get HR to keep an eye on people that haven't booked all of their vacation days so you can remind them and encourage them to have a break.
Create A Culture Of Open Communication
You need to be open and transparent about what you are trying to achieve with initiatives that improve mental health in the workplace. You should explain why this is important and how it benefits everybody in your business.
Show people that they can talk about their issues, problems, or personal life without worrying about the consequences. If employees understand that they don't have to always fake happiness or hide any problems, it will encourage them to speak up when something is affecting them. There's no point in creating a culture of open communication if people don't know how to use it effectively.
So make sure you show your employees that they are heard and they can always discuss their concerns with you. Have an open-door policy so you are always available for people to talk to you. Remember, people might not be used to this kind of open communication so it may take a while for your culture to develop. But once it does, you will notice a huge difference.
So many businesses offer token gestures to improve mental health without actually doing anything tangible. The most important thing if you want to make a significant difference is to change your company culture.
You should implement these changes gradually, giving everybody a chance to adapt and adjust. In a lot of workplaces, these measures simply don't exist. In fact, these practices go against what many of your employees will be used to in the workplace because they have been taught to accept a toxic culture. But, don't give up if the process takes longer than you expected. Remember, building a culture that prioritizes mental health requires significant effort from everybody in your organization, but it's worth the hard work.
MIKE VENY'S WEEKLY EMAIL
A FREE dose of exclusive wellness and D&I insights for HR leaders.