By | Charlie Fletcher
When businesses make employee mental health a priority, everybody stands to benefit. Your workers are able to maintain their well-being while operating in a supportive and positive environment. At the same time, your company gains the potential for greater productivity, engagement, and employee retention.
Yet, many companies still aren’t championing mental health in a meaningful way. In some instances, this is certainly a result of continued stigma around the subject and prejudice based on outdated ideas. However, a lot of business leaders simply aren’t clear about how to proceed in a practical sense. In all likelihood, you are keen to make changes but don’t have a strategy for an impactful mental health program.
Let’s take a moment to explore a few key areas your company can focus on to start championing mental health in the workplace.
Promote Work-Life Balance
One of the key contributors to poor employee mental health is an imbalance between their work and home lives. When too much of workers’ lives are monopolized by their professional activities, this tends to lead to burnout and may exacerbate depression, stress, and anxiety. Indeed, the reasons people quit their jobs during the Great Resignation revolve around working too many hours, limited flexibility, and a lack of benefits. Each of these is a primary contributor to a good work-life balance. Your wellness program needs to place focus on this.
You should begin by halting any expectation for employees to work beyond their contracted hours. Try to avoid unnecessary overtime, particularly of the unpaid or crunch-time variety. This puts additional pressure on workers and is really a failure of planning that shouldn’t be passed on to staff. You should also create protocols to prevent staff from being contacted outside of their key working hours.
At the same time, strive to be flexible with scheduling. Wherever possible, offer opportunities for remote operations or a hybrid situation. This allows workers space to attend to their family and personal lives while potentially boosting productivity.
Paid time off is also essential here. Vacations are known to improve mood and reduce stress. However, if workers have to make the choice between paying their bills and taking a break for essential recharging, most are likely to feel forced to pick the former. This is not good for their mental wellness and is likely to disrupt productivity. Make sure you encourage your workers to use their time off, too. The current working culture too often sees employees treated as pariahs for utilizing their earned and deserved vacation periods.
Provide a Range of Resources
An effective wellness program, particularly from the perspective of mental health, requires a range of resources. This can begin with educational tools. Provide literature to help workers recognize common symptoms of stress, burnout, and depression. Bring in consultants to provide seminars on how to address the symptoms they experience and bolster their day-to-day psychological well-being.
Alongside education, it can be a positive move to offer subsidized forms of therapy or counseling. However, different circumstances may require a specialist’s assistance. For instance, reproductive psychiatrists can be valuable for women facing challenges surrounding fertility, menopause, and related subjects. These professionals provide the most relevant expertise and support for the circumstances. This is particularly vital at a time when many of your workers may find current events regarding reproductive rights stressful. As such, it’s important to ensure the resources you provide extend to nuanced fields.
Some of the most valuable resources for mental health aren’t directly medical in nature but are still supportive and therapeutic. Your wellness program could include access to mindfulness and mental health smartphone applications. You may be able to offer access to guided meditation or yoga sessions a few mornings a week on company premises. Many companies are now offering subsidized in-office massages to reduce stress.
Keep Employees Involved
It would be a mistake to approach championing mental health in the workplace in a dictatorial fashion. While providing services and tools is an excellent start, you don’t want to run the risk of projecting the assumption that you know what’s best for workers. Or worse, that your actions are goal-oriented to improve productivity. It’s essential to involve your employees in bolstering their mental wellness.
Primarily this is because they are likely to have a better understanding of their needs than their managers, human resources (HR) teams, or executives. Reach out to your workers for suggestions. Issue anonymous surveys to better understand what they consider to be the key mental health hurdles so you can collaborate in addressing them. Importantly, keep communicating with workers on the subject. This not only demonstrates your authentic commitment to their wellness, it can also boost morale and keep them engaged.
These efforts to keep your workers involved must extend to organizational changes that may impact their mental wellness. For instance, during a widespread digital transformation, you should take the time to share the details of the process with your workers. Listen to their concerns on the matter and mitigate the potential for anxiety that can arise from uncertainty. By being open and giving workers a voice during periods of change you can ensure healthy and positive experiences for everyone involved.
Championing mental wellness in the workplace helps boost your employees’ mental and physical wellness. In turn, this tends to result in a happier, more engaged, and more productive workforce. But it takes some focus and investment from your business to develop effective programs. These should include protocols to improve employees’ work-life balance and a range of resources to gain the support they need. It’s also vital to keep your workers being active contributors in designing and improving workplace mental wellness. There are no quick fixes here, but a commitment to change can have vast benefits for your employees and your business.