Realistic Ways to Support Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace
Paid time off. Life insurance options. Tuition reimbursement program. Dental and vision packages. When you’re wrapping up your employee benefits package options for open enrollment, have you etched aside a package that focuses on your employee’s mental health? Supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace may not initially seem like a responsibility the employer should take on. However, the reality is that an individual’s overall health and wellbeing – inside and out – can make a critical impact on your workplace productivity and the ultimate bottom line.
Still not so sure? Take a look at the numbers reported from the Center for Disease Center (CDC):
Depression can interfere with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and it reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time.
In a 3-month period, patients with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer from 11.5 days of reduced productivity.
Depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year, costing employers $17 to $44 billion.
Can your company afford to look the other way when it comes to investing in the overall wellbeing of your associates? Unfortunately, disorders like depression or anxiety can often go undetected for months or years, so unless your employees are aware of their wellbeing and have a grounded support system, they could struggle to focus without knowing why. Unlike physical illnesses, mental health issues are more challenging to pinpoint. Your goal as an employer should be to end the stigma of mental illnesses and create a culture of awareness and support so that you can foster a healthier, happier workplace.
Get a Pulse on the Office Productivity
As an employer, it can be a challenge to tackle mental health, but employers and HR professionals are in a unique, powerful position where they can help shift attitudes and provide the support necessary to deliver wellness to every individual you employ.
To start, you’ll want to identify the clues of universally poor mental health in your workplace to get a pulse on the office culture. If you provide employee engagement surveys, take a closer look at the responses and engagement. Engagement with these surveys can provide a gauge on how your employees might be feeling, as engagement tends to be the opposite representation of burnout. Most companies will survey employees’ attitudes to see how they experience their work and jobs, but few are aware of just how important engagement can reflect a preventive factor of poor health issues.
Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect the employee in several ways, and while you’ve got to focus on overall productivity and your company’s bottom line, it is imperative that you invest in the health of your employees. Here are a few signs of poor mental health in your associates:
Poor job performance and productivity.
Decreased engagement with one’s work.
Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work.
Strained communication with coworkers.
Difficulty delivering physical capability and daily functioning.
If you start to notice a pattern of one or some of these signs, it may be time to invest a bit more into your workplace wellbeing. Your employees want to feel good about their work performance. They want the investment in their health. Consider the results from a 2018 Peldon Rose survey: Nearly three-quarters of workers expressed they wanted their employers to champion mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. This was rated as more important than equality (48%), sustainability (38%) and diversity (31%) to the survey respondents.
Here are a few steps you can take to boost morale and mental health:
Encourage Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is an essential element to a healthy work environment, as it can help reduce stress and prevent burnout in the workplace. Between home life and maintaining careers while many try to balance financial struggles like student loans, people are feeling the strain now more than ever. As a result, flexible work options are becoming more commonplace for employers. The stress to balance it all can be a major contributor to an employee’s wellness. Additionally, consider offering complimentary snacks and beverages to your employees for those times where it’s hard for them to run out and grab a bite!
Flexible work hours can provide a better work-life balance, greater control, a chance to avoid stress from sitting in traffic, and the opportunity to attend medical appointments, all of which are important for those coping with mental illness. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 33% of those with longer commutes more likely to suffer from depression. They are 40% more likely to have financial worries and 12% more likely to report issues due to work-related stress. Especially if the office is located in a congested, large city, the commute alone could cause insurmountable stress on your associate before they even enter the workplace.
Give your associates the option. Flexible hours or offering occasional work from home days can be a tremendous change in your workplace productivity and health.
While being cognizant of HR-related fairness and compliance is important to the success and productivity of the corporate culture, try not to look at your workplace as cut and dry. Instead of treating everyone the same, try incorporating more fairness into the workplace. When you’re being fair, you’re treating people the way they want and the way they deserve, rather than the same. This can boost mental wellness in a variety of ways.
For example, consider your workplace environment. How is the office set up? Do you have sterile cubicles that restrict interaction? Or is your workstations set in a more open-air concept? Try to be fair to all employees and offer a combination of both. If you enforce everyone to work in a noisy or loud environment, this may accommodate the extraverts on your team, but think about the introverts on your team. Will they feel uncomfortable with this setup? Encouraging employees to spend most of their day collaborating through creative brainstorming tasks only helps your imaginative employees thrive, but isolates and stresses out your quieter, more reserved teammates. When people feel excluded or marginalized you could be putting them at risk of health problems.
Raise Mental Health Awareness and Education
The fastest way to break the stigma of mental health is to get talking about it. Mental health is as important as physical health, so by discussing it in a considerate atmosphere, you can provide those struggling with mental health issues feel comfortable seeking the help they need.
Support comes from the top down. Provide opportunities for your managers and supervisors to attend training specific to supporting the well-being of all staff. There is a tendency in management to seek a one-size-fits-all solution because of HR compliance practices, but the fact is that there are major differences in the way people act, the way they process, and the way they feel. Managers should understand that every employee is and will be different. The best type of managers can decode what makes every employee on the team unique while knowing how to manage and support that specific uniqueness.
Put it into Action
The World Health Organization reports that for every $1 invested into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. Now, more than ever, it’s critical to educate employees about mental health to avoid burnout, mental breakdowns, and reduce suicide risk. Companies who invest in the mental health of their and adopt an open dialogue about mental health issues are creating a positive workplace and a place where people want to work.