A national dialogue about mental health issues has been growing in recent years. More celebrities are opening up about struggles with their mental health and tragedies like Robin Williams’ death last month spark new questions about the nature of mental illness. With one in five people reporting mental health issues, the conversation can no longer stay out of the workplace. We spend a third of our day, if not more, at work and often more than half of our waking hours. Recent research shows that 90 percent of employees believe mental health is an important issue for businesses.
Acknowledging and supporting mental health in the workplace can do more than make you a caring, decent company … it can actually help you make more money. A recent survey found that for every $1 business spent on mental health, their return on investment was $2.30. Employees who feel happy and supported at work are more likely to be productive, care about the company’s goals, and you know, actually show up (instead of taking a mental health sick day).
To help you get started, we’ve put together 10 ways to promote a mentally healthy work environment:
1. Choose to make mental health a priority AKA: Give a damn. Reading this article is certainly a good first step. As we mention in our previous post about goal setting in the workplace, hardly anything gets done and done well if it’s not a priority. Decide that you want your work environment to be a supportive and caring place. Decide that you care about how your employees are doing and that work should not be a negative contributor to their mental health. You can’t control your employee’s mental health, but you control how you and your company respond to it.
2. Promote a healthy work-life balance Bringing your best in your work is important, but bringing your best can’t happen if work is all you’re doing. Encourage your employees to take breaks, use vacation time, and spend time outside of work pursuing personal interests. One of our core values at CareerPlug is Work Hard, Chill Out. Try to find a balance that works for your company and actively promote it.
3. Provide stress relief programs for employees There is a wide range of mental health problems, and being overstressed is not only it’s own issue, but often a trigger for more serious problems. Luckily, there are a lot of small changes you can incorporate into your company culture to combat stress. Exercise and movement is one great stress reliever. Consider planning short stretch/walk breaks during long meetings or sponsoring a yoga class for your employees. Having a place for employees to “get away from it all” can also be useful; could you have a room for meditation or just a quiet spot for employees to step away from work for a few minutes? Even encouraging employees to eat lunch away from their desks can do wonders. Willing to make a bigger change? Many companies are now allowing employees to bring pets — amazing stress relievers for many people — into the office.
4. Make sure your employees feel safe This can mean anything from making sure safety protocols are clearly in place and complaints are being properly addressed to enforcing strict sexual harassment and bullying policies. Pay attention to offhand comments employees might make alluding to these instances and make sure you are taking complaints seriously.
5. Increase employee involvement Employees who are invested in their work and have control over their responsibilities typically feel more positively engaged in their job. Self-managed work teams, employee committees, innovations teams, participation in decision making, and employee suggestion forums are a few ideas to more actively involve employees in their work. The bottom line: people want their voice to be heard and often it’s something you need to hear anyway.
6. Regularly reevaluate employees’ workloads How full is someone’s docket? Has their workload increased recently? Do they have the resources they need to accomplish the work? Most positions fluctuate over time: workloads change, responsibilities shift. Check-in with the people you manage on a regular basis to keep up with these developments and ensure they’re getting the support they need to be successful and mentally healthy.
7. Recognize and reward employees Most of us like to be told when we’re doing a good job. If you’re not showing your appreciation for your employee’s good work they either won’t stick around long or they’ll stop doing the good work. From bonuses to your own version of the Dundie Awards, there is a range of options to recognize your employees’ accomplishments. What are you doing now to reward hard work?
8. Provide health insurance with coverage for mental health This is fundamental to supporting mental health wellness. You can do what you can to promote a healthy workplace, but many people with mental health issues want or need to see a professional. You’re a company, after all, not a doctor. It’s not your job to heal employees who need help. What you can do is make sure your employees have access to the resources and external support they need. Take a look at your health insurance program: does it support employees with mental health needs? Do you have protocols for employees who may need to take a leave of absence for a mental health issue?
9. Educate employees about mental health issues Training programs for managers and/or all employees about mental health issues are becoming more common. Implementing these programs can create an open door culture and strip away the stigma that is often attached to mental illness. Ideally you want your employees to be as comfortable talking about their mental health as they would be their physical health.
10. Be observant Pay attention to your team and listen to your instincts when they tell you someone is not okay or that your workplace is not healthy. If you are engaged in the success of your employees you’ll be able to tell when something isn’t working. Be as communicative, caring, and supportive as possible.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you do to cultivate a mentally healthy workplace?
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