Now more than ever, it is vital for organizations to support mental health in the workplace. According to a study conducted in 2019, 60% of employees reported having at least one mental health symptom that year. And that was a study conducted in 2019. How much greater would that percentage be today? The added pressures of isolation, illness, and financial loss imposed by the pandemic is only adding to the problem. Many employees say work is contributing to their mental health systems. How can you support them?
If you don’t have a mental health program in place, you aren’t alone. Some common reasons for not having a plan are lack of time and knowledge. However, you can make small changes today that will significantly impact your organization’s overall mental health. Over time, you’ll find that you have a thriving program in place. Here are some small tips to get you started.
Reducing stigma is job #1.
The most common reason your employees will not seek help for mental health support is a fear of looking weak or incapable of handling responsibilities. In fact, 95% of employees who took a day off for mental health-related symptoms gave another reason, such as a stomach virus or common cold. Companies may be inadvertently supporting this stigma when values such as high performance and excellence are part of the culture. You can start to balance the achievement culture with placing importance on mental wellness also.
Creating a culture that’s open and supportive to mental health will take some time to cultivate, but it will be worth the effort. Start by establishing a mental health committee with representatives from each functional area and various levels of seniority. This committee will bring concerns to leadership, brainstorm ways to help employees manage stress at the workplace, and promote the new culture throughout departments. Be sure to involve everyone in the process. It gives employees ownership of the new culture.
Culture change starts at the top, and at Prudential Financial, they recognize this. As a result, they held a corporate-level event where three top leaders shared their depression, addiction, and PTSD experiences. By normalizing discussions around these challenges, they’ve opened the door for other Prudential employees to share their struggles too.
Train your employees to nurture mental health.
Another simple way to start forming a mental health program is by giving employees the tools they need to manage mental health. You can do this by adding mental health topics to your already established training program. Conduct training can monthly, quarterly, or as issues come up. Whether you create your curriculum, hire a consultant to help, or purchase a curriculum from a vendor, you’ll be giving your employees tools they can implement today to maintain their wellness.
Along with individual skills, you must teach intervention skills. Wouldn’t it be great if employees felt empowered to support one another in their challenges? Unfortunately, 89% of employees say they’d be uncomfortable approaching a colleague if they noticed they were struggling. Feeling awkward, not knowing what to say, and not wanting to offend are their reasons why. Let’s empower them to reach out to team members they work with every day.
Give mental health resources to your workforce.
There are some great resources you can offer employees. One of the most convenient is an app that helps support mental health. Some apps teach mindfulness, meditation, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills. While several apps charge a subscription fee, many are free. If you want help filtering through them, here is an app finder tool provided by Digital Psychiatry.
What other resources can you develop at your company? How about placing Take 10 Work Break stations throughout the building where employees are encouraged to take a moment to unwind? Autosoft, a small tech company in Pennsylvania, did this and placed puzzles, games, and crafts at each station. They also set up an award called the You’ve Been Caught award that celebrates employees that are “caught” engaging in healthy activities. These simple to implement ideas helped Autosoft create a healthy culture and earned them the title of small for-profit winner of the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2019.
Support mental health by supporting total wellness.
You’ve heard that mind, body, and spirit work together to make up our total wellness. So it makes sense that a healthy body and spirit will help to make the mind healthier. A comprehensive mental health program includes a reliable wellness program made up of quality health insurance, company discounts for fitness programs, and generous paid time off benefits. Take a holistic approach when thinking about how you can best support your employees and develop the healthiest workforce ever!
Developing a mental health program for your organization can feel like an overwhelming task. As you can see, there are simple things you can do today to start making an impact. Start small, and grow your program as you begin to discover your organization’s individual needs. Without a doubt, you’ll see less turnover, more productivity, and higher satisfaction among your workforce when you value and support their mental well-being.