Did you know that approximately 75% of employees suffer from mental health conditions? Not only is this detrimental to their overall health, but it can also damage the health of your organization.
On average, businesses lose $9,450 per year due to employee mental illness. Though the stigma around mental health has subsided somewhat in recent years, many people still feel the need to stay silent about their experiences in a professional setting, with 80% of employees struggling with mental health admitting that shame and social stigma have discouraged them from seeking help.
On the other hand, business owners who support their employees’ mental health often enjoy increased success and improved employee morale.
Though the topic can be daunting, this guide is here to share all the information you need to support your employees’ mental health in the workplace and beyond.
Why is Mental Health in the Workplace Important?
Supporting mental health in the workplace is of utmost importance both for employee well-being and their contributions to your organization.
Employees’ productivity is significantly impacted by their mental health challenges, as revealed by a 2023 survey by One Medical.
Among employees who struggle with mental health, 91% reported decreased productivity directly attributed to their mental or behavioral health concerns, with 45% experiencing a productivity decline of more than 5 hours per week.
By prioritizing mental health, organizations can improve these statistics. Supporting your employees’ mental wellness will enhance productivity, reduce absenteeism, and foster employee loyalty and retention.
How To Support Mental Health in the Workplace
Even if you’ve decided to improve your business’s support for employee mental health, knowing where to channel your resources can be difficult. Let’s take a look at several methods of organizational support for mental health.
1. Creating a Supportive Work Culture
Employees who struggle with mental health often feel shame around discussing the topic. This can be counteractive to them getting the help they need, as open communication can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
When leaders of a company are open about their own experience with mental health, or at least initiate a conversation about the importance of prioritizing mental well-being, employees feel safe to share their own struggles and supported to take the first step in seeking help.
Your company culture also plays a significant role in employee mental health. Promote a healthy work-life balance by encouraging employees to take time off when needed and foster a positive environment by reducing stressors such as long hours, heavy workloads, or unresolved interpersonal conflict.
2. Providing Mental Health Resources
A survey from McKinsey revealed that employee mental health, including substance use, should be a major concern for employers.
Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect between employer and employee perspectives on workplace mental health.
Employers may think they are providing adequate resources, while employees either don’t know about the resources available, feel they are inadequate, or feel shame about accessing them.
To improve working conditions for all employees, employers must prioritize mental wellness. Examine what resources you currently offer and improve them if necessary.
Unfortunately, many employees don’t utilize mental health resources because they don’t realize that they are available. Be sure to communicate early and often about what your organization offers, and encourage employees to use their benefits whenever possible.
Enhanced mental health supports can reduce missed work days, increase return-to-work rates, and improve overall employee well-being.
3. Promoting Self-Care and Stress Management
In an unhealthy company culture, employees may feel pressured to work through their lunch breaks to maximize their productivity.
However, this can lead to burnout or actually decrease productivity, as taking breaks is critical for maintaining employee morale and mental health.
Encourage your employees to take their lunches and other breaks away from their desks by sending gentle reminders that assure them management values their well-being.
A proper lunch break can significantly benefit mood, focus, and productivity. If your team tends to multitask during lunch, kindly remind them that it’s perfectly acceptable to take a break and recharge during this time.
Another strategy is to promote walking meetings to encourage physical movement and a change of environment. Stepping away from desks can have a positive impact on mood and productivity.
Encourage managers to check in with their teams through walking meetings, whether in person or over the phone, to incorporate fresh air and movement into their day. Coworkers can also engage in walking meetings with each other to foster brainstorming and problem-solving in a more dynamic setting.
Send self-care kits to show your employees that you genuinely care about their well-being. These surprise kits can serve as a gesture to remind employees to prioritize self-care.
Fill the kits with items that facilitate relaxation and rejuvenation, such as candles, diffusers with relaxing essential oils, stress balls, healthy snacks, teas, gift cards, chocolates, and journals. Feel free to get creative and customize the kits to suit your employees’ preferences.
4. Flexible Work Arrangements
Especially after the pandemic, many employees expect some flexibility in their workday. If you’re hoping to improve employee morale, granting a bit more freedom regarding working hours and location is a good start.
Consider giving your staff every other Friday off or allowing them to work from home a few days a week. Hybrid working arrangements have proven to increase employee engagement and improve productivity.
Rather than feeling like cogs in a machine, employees with more freedom have a greater sense of ownership – and it might even spark some new ideas and innovations.
Additionally, if you have employees with special mental health needs, do whatever is possible to accommodate them.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to grant reasonable accommodation to any employee struggling with mental health, and even small accommodations like flexible hours can have a significant positive effect on employee well-being.
5. Training Managers and Supervisors
Office culture starts at the top, so facilitating a healthy work environment that supports mental health depends on managers and supervisors.
We’ve already discussed the shame and stigma that often accompany mental health issues, but when managers are willing to share their own mental health challenges, it helps create a safe space that encourages employees to do the same.
It is also important for leadership to model healthy behaviors, such as prioritizing self-care and setting healthy personal and professional boundaries. If leadership is constantly stressed or engaging in toxic workplace tension, these negative effects will trickle down to the rest of the workforce.
Combat this by caring for your managers as well as your employees and implementing policies of frequent communication, flexibility, and inclusivity.
6. Addressing Workload and Job Design
No matter how great your culture or employee mental health resources are, if employees feel overworked, they are likely to become burnt out and suffer a swift decline in their mental health.
Address workload by evaluating it periodically to ensure it stays manageable for your current team. As employees come and go, their collective ability to manage a high workload might change over time.
Reduce feelings of stress and burnout by removing excessive job demands and unrealistic expectations for employees. It’s also beneficial to encourage job autonomy and involvement in decision-making to make employees feel they have a say in the scope of their responsibilities.
7. Encouraging Work-Life Balance
“Work-life balance” is a buzzword in HR management, but what exactly does it mean?
When employees feel their entire life revolves around their job, their personal lives and overall well-being suffer.
Help combat this by clearly communicating expectations regarding working hours and availability, allowing team members to disconnect and prioritize personal time. Offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible schedules, empowers employees to have more control over their work-life integration.
Cultivate a supportive culture where open discussions about work-life balance are welcomed, and provide resources like wellness initiatives and access to counseling services.
Recognizing and appreciating individuals who prioritize work-life balance and regularly checking in with our team to understand their needs and make necessary adjustments will contribute to a healthier work environment.
Encouraging work-life balance is vital for the well-being and productivity of your team. To foster a healthy work-life balance, lead by example to demonstrate a commitment to mental health and work-life balance.
8. Evaluating and Improving Strategies
In the same way that assessing progress is vital for any enhancement strategy, it is important to select specific metrics and continuously monitor them to evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts.
Implementing regular staff feedback surveys, conducting employee check-ins, and closely monitoring retention rates are potential methods to achieve this.
Regardless of the metrics chosen, thoroughly examining company culture from various perspectives provides a comprehensive understanding of the overall progress.
By assessing progress from multiple angles, you gain a complete view of the outcomes resulting from your initiatives. If you discover that your approach has had minimal influence on critical metrics, it might be necessary to make adjustments and consider alternative strategies.
Prioritizing your employees’ mental health will only positively impact your organization.
Foster employee loyalty, boost productivity and improve your organizational culture by providing ample mental health resources, effectively communicating about those resources, and creating a healthy work environment.
What are some common mental health issues experienced in the workplace?
Common mental health issues in the workplace include stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, and work-related psychological disorders. These can arise due to factors such as heavy workload, long hours, poor work-life balance, lack of support, and excessive pressure.
How can employers support employees' mental health?
Employers can support employees’ mental health by creating a supportive work culture, providing mental health resources, promoting self-care and stress management, offering flexible work arrangements, training managers and supervisors, and addressing workload and job design issues.
What are Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and how do they help with mental health?
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are workplace-based programs that provide employees with confidential counseling and support services. EAPs typically offer assessments, short-term counseling, referrals to mental health professionals, and resources to address a wide range of personal and work-related issues.
How can managers and supervisors play a role in supporting mental health?
Managers and supervisors can support mental health by being knowledgeable about mental health issues, recognizing signs of distress in employees, fostering open communication, providing support and accommodations, promoting work-life balance, and offering resources and referrals when needed.
What are some signs of an employee struggling with mental health issues?
Signs that an employee may be struggling with mental health issues include changes in behavior, decreased productivity, frequent absences, increased irritability or mood swings, withdrawal from social interactions, difficulty concentrating, and unexplained physical symptoms like headaches or fatigue.
How can organizations promote mental health awareness among employees?
Organizations can promote mental health awareness by organizing educational workshops and training sessions, sharing informational resources on mental health topics, hosting guest speakers or mental health professionals, and encouraging open discussions and conversations about mental health in the workplace.
How can organizations evaluate the effectiveness of their mental health initiatives?
Organizations can evaluate the effectiveness of their mental health initiatives through various methods, such as conducting employee surveys or focus groups, tracking absenteeism and turnover rates, analyzing productivity and performance metrics, and seeking feedback from managers and supervisors. This evaluation can help identify areas of improvement and guide future initiatives.