Practical Tips to Support Employee Mental Health and Wellness
Employee mental health and wellness—there is a reason you're seeing it talked about so much throughout the past year. According to the World Health Organization, anxiety and depression account for approximately $1 trillion in lost productivity in the workplace annually. So not only are companies concerned about their employees on a personal level, but they are also seeing the impact that mental health challenges have on their bottom lines. Together, this is enough to propel the workplace mental health conversation into the spotlight.
Your workplace doesn't have to be mentally unhealthy. Instead, mental health should be a strength in your workplace. Burnout can be prevented, and the mental wellness of your employees can be supported and improved. However, it takes intentional action to turn mental health from a liability into a strength.
The following ten tips can help you support employee mental health and wellness in your organization.
1. Promote work-life balance
Employees struggle with work-life balance, which has become a growing problem with increased technology. Remote employees struggle to maintain regular work hours and instead find that work creeps over into what should be their personal time. Even employees who work in the office feel the pressure to check their work email outside of work hours.
While everyone longs for work-life balance, the world seems to continue moving in the opposite direction at an increasingly busy pace. If you want to help your employees protect their mental health and wellness, help them find a better work-life balance.
There are many ways that you can be a part of promoting balance for employees, including:
- Providing flexible work schedules so they can make the best use of their time
- Providing paid leave and encouraging employees to take advantage of it
- Pay attention to employees' work hours (Are you getting emails at midnight even though they aren't on the clock?)
- Provide training and tools to help employees prioritize their tasks
- Compensate well so employees don't need to find a second job to make ends meet
- Create a company culture that prioritizes mental wellness
It can help to realize that work-life balance looks different to different people. Take time to learn what it means to your individual employees. One employee may want to have weekends off of work, while another would like the flexibility to leave for a few hours at midday to attend a field trip with their child.
When you take the time to learn what each employee desires, you can start taking steps to see how to make it a reality for them.
And most importantly, ensure the company executives are setting the example for work-life balance that others are able to follow. You can provide plenty of paid time off, but if managers don't utilize their own personal time, employees will feel they shouldn't use their personal time either.
2. Provide mental health days
Build Mental Health Days into your benefits package. Then let your employees know that you expect them to use those days throughout the year the same way they would a sick day. Make sure they know it's at their discretion, and you don't expect them to prove that they needed the time off. Instead, let them know you want them to take time to rest and recharge before they reach their burnout point, not after they hit it.
Then, just like mentioned above, make sure that the use of mental health days are modeled from the top down. Again, these days are only beneficial if they are used.
3. Help employees align their goals
People want to feel like the work they do matters. Help your employees see how their job-specific tasks align with both their personal goals and the overall company's goals. When employees can leave work feeling like they moved forward personally and professionally, it helps bring a level of satisfaction that is important for building confidence.
In addition, make sure you take the time to celebrate successes with your team so everyone can experience the sense of achievement from a job well done. If your company landed a big client, take time to acknowledge those who contributed to the process. If your company hit a sales goal, make sure you celebrate with everyone on staff.
Don't overlook any positions because each person's work contributes to your company's success. Do your best to communicate that to each and every person.
4. Help employees address personal stress
Seventy-five percent of employees are stressed about their finances, according to SoFi's 2022 The Future of Workplace Financial Well-Being report. Inflation, the economy, and many other stressors add to the personal stress your employees experience outside of their work-related stress.
In decades past, employers expected employees to "leave personal problems at the door" and focus on work when they were on the clock. However, as human beings, it's unrealistic to expect people who are struggling with high levels of personal stress to be able to focus 100% on work when they arrive. Personal problems don't just go away.
So it's a win-win situation for companies to look at finding ways to help employees with their personal stress. You are helping your team on a personal level while also helping improve their productivity levels at work.
Get creative with your solutions. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Provide an employee financial literacy program to help your team feel better about their financial situation
- Bring in a Corporate Wellness Specialist to teach your team practical, self-care tips to feel their best
- Offer free memberships to the gym so employees have a healthy way to blow off steam
- Provide access to an estate planning professional, legal professional, or other professionals who can meet the real-life needs of your team
- Provide a flexible schedule that allows them to be where they need to when they need to (such as children's doctor's appointments)
Get intentional about finding ways the company can help ease the personal stress of employees.
5. Help foster positive working relationships
Many employees spend more time on an average day with their coworkers than they do with family and friends. The quality of our relationships impacts our mental health and emotional wellness. That means the quality of workplace relationships impacts your team.
Even one or two toxic employees can cause problems for an entire department. On the other hand, good workplace relationships can boost employee morale and increase employee retention rates.
Therefore, it's worth your time to help foster these positive workplace relationships. You want your employees to feel and operate like a team. Because your company is likely made up of people with diverse backgrounds and personalities, this can be easier said than done.
It may be helpful to bring in a Corporate Wellness Specialist or Team Building Facilitator to help bring your team together and gain new perspectives about one another.
6. Hold a Thanksgiving luncheon (or a luncheon for no reason at all)
Thanksgiving is right around the corner if your company is in the United States. Use this holiday as an opportunity to hold an employee luncheon to show your gratitude for the team and help them start to feel more comfortable with one another. Breaking employees out of their regular routines and getting them to interact with each other can improve workplace relationships.
Cater a feast for your team prior to the holiday. Find ways to get people from different departments to mingle so your team can get to know one another better. Take time to express your appreciation for their work throughout the year.
If you aren't in the States or don't want to connect a luncheon with a holiday, choose any day to make it happen. The day you do it isn't important; it's that you do something out of the ordinary to help people feel appreciated and comfortable in the company.
7. Provide a free telehealth option for therapy
Therapy is expensive, and most insurance plans provide limited coverage, making it difficult for employees to get the professional support and guidance they need. Due to inflation, more people are having to carefully choose how they spend their paycheck and therapy may not be an option for them even if they need it.
There are many telehealth and online therapy options that you can provide for your employees if you don't already have coverage as part of your benefits package. You can explore some of the popular options through Forbes' 10 Best Online Therapy Services of 2022 article.
Online therapy options can be helpful when you have employees with busy life schedules. It can also help to provide employees with time throughout their workday to attend online therapy sessions. If your office is set up as an open floor plan, consider designating several private spaces where employees can attend these sessions without being overheard by coworkers.
8. Learn how to recognize when an employee is struggling
The signs of mental health challenges can be easy to overlook or attribute to other problems in the workplace. For example, a drop in the quality of an employee's work may be due to mental health challenges and not simply that they aren't a good worker.
I encourage you not to be too quick to assume that you have a difficult, sub-par, or lazy employee on your hands. Keep in mind that they may be struggling with their mental health and need your support. When you respond to your team with empathy and compassion, you may be able to help address the issue and support them in improving their performance.
So how do you know if an employee is struggling with mental health challenges? I recommend using The 3 OUTS™ framework. These "outs" include:
- OUT of character. An employee's behavior is inconsistent over a period of time with someone's personality, disposition, or how they typically behave.
- OUT of nowhere. An employee is displaying unhealthy behavior that appears or happens suddenly and unexpectedly.
- OUT of the group. An employee is showing increased social withdrawal or isolation, both at work and outside of work.
You can learn more about how to identify when an employee is struggling with their mental health in the workplace mental health course Connectivity & Conversations.
9. End the stigma around mental health
Stigma stops people from seeking help for their mental health challenges. While the world has been making progress over the last several years to end the mental health stigma, it still exists.
One of the best ways to end stigma is to dispel the myths around mental health, show people that mental health challenges are common and don't need to be scary, and continue to get the topic into conversations. If you want to help address and end mental health stigma in your organization, consider bringing in a mental health speaker.
I have spoken at companies across the country and internationally to share my personal story of living with mental health challenges. Sometimes all people need is to hear a story of someone else who has struggled to feel that they can be more open about their own experiences.
10. Continue to learn about mental health and emotional wellness
It seems simple, but it's true. The more you educate yourself on a topic, the more you are able to help and make a difference. I encourage you to spend time learning about how to improve your own mental health and wellness. Explore self-care strategies that help you feel your best. Listen to YouTube videos to learn about the common mental health challenges people face.
Taking the time to educate yourself about mental health and wellness will help you become an asset to your employees when they are struggling. You don't have to know all the right answers or be able to "fix" them. Simply being a listening ear and knowing what resources to point them toward can make a world of difference for someone who is struggling.
A simple way to learn more about workplace mental health is through the self-paced online course Connectivity & Conversations. The course answers questions about employee mental health and provides advice and resources for supporting your team's mental wellness. Get started today.
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