We know there’s been a lot of talk lately about mental health in the workplace and for good reason. Mental health conditions are one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. How common are they?
Around 18% of adults over 18 have a mental health disorder in the U.S.
It’s something all companies should be aware of. Employees suffering from mental health problems are more unhappy and less productive. Investing in mental health awareness for employees is a smart use of resources for any business. But what are the best ways for a business to invest in employee mental health?
1. Provide Anonymity
Employees need to feel safe when they seek help. Many employees will not reach out for support if they think their boss could find out what’s going on. Giving them anonymity can help them feel comfortable opening up about their mental illness, which is an important step in getting better. By providing anonymity, you create a culture of compassion where employees feel supported and not alone. When employees know their employer cares about their well-being, they’ll be more likely to stay loyal to the company.
2. Have a Clear Mental Health Policy
Having a clear mental health policy is an important first step. Your company should have one and include it in your employee handbook, orientation, performance reviews, and annual reviews.
Your employees need to know what they can expect from you if mental illness affects them. Your company’s official statement on mental health will help them feel secure in their rights at work and guide them on how to approach management with any issues related to their own or someone else’s mental health issues.
3. Offer Ongoing Education
Offer employees opportunities to learn about mental health. Training is an important part of supporting employees with mental health issues and ensuring they have the tools they need to seek assistance. Whether your company offers workshops, webinars, or other resources, providing them with a forum where they can learn more about dealing with mental illness in the workplace will help create a culture of acceptance and support.
4. Train Management to Recognize and Deal with Mental Health Issues, Too
Provide training for managers on how to recognize and respond to mental health issues. Managers are often the first line of defense when it comes to employee welfare. They’re responsible for handling performance issues, as well as addressing concerns about an employee’s well-being.
Having these skills allows them to address these issues directly, instead of leaving employees feeling like management or human resources isn’t taking their situation seriously. In addition, offering this type of training will open lines of communication between higher management and lower-level staff members, so both sides understand what’s expected of them at all times.
5. Encourage Physical Activity and Other Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Provide training for employees on how to promote positive mental health outcomes through healthy habits, such as exercise programs, healthy eating initiatives, etc. Lifestyle plays a key role in mental health, including diet, physical activity, sleep, and stress management.
Physical activity is an effective approach to stress management. Exercise has been shown to help with anxiety and depression, as well as sleep, mood, memory, focus, creativity, and problem-solving — all of which are important in the workplace. In fact, studies show that people who exercise more are less likely to experience depression than those who don’t exercise at all.
If your company offers wellness programs like on-site fitness centers or walking paths around the office building, encourage employees to take advantage of them. That way they can stay fit, while also supporting their mental health.
6. Provide Resources and Support
Along with providing resources and support, you can provide a safe space for employees to talk about their mental health. The more comfortable they are with the subject, the more likely they are to open up about it. As a company leader, you’re already in a great position to help create this kind of environment by fostering open dialogue around depression and other mental health issues.
Also, ensure your employees have access to resources on your corporate intranet site so that if they need help or advice on how to deal with their own issues or those of others in the office (like managers), they know exactly where to go first.
Finally, make sure experts write the articles you share with employees — specifically those who specialize in treating depression — as well as people who have experienced depression themselves. That way, what’s being said will appear authentic and relatable.
You can also create a resource page for local services where people can go for additional help. This should be separate from any reporting system your company has set up so that employees don’t feel they must report their issues through you.
7. Make Mental Health Awareness Part of Your Culture
The next step is to make mental health awareness part of your company culture. This means training employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, encouraging them to speak up when they need help, and making it clear that there are no negative consequences for doing so.
It’s also important for companies to make it known that they prioritize employee mental health — not just by saying so in an email or memo, but by showing it through action. Building this kind of environment will send the message that it’s okay to seek professional support, but also that the company supports them in doing so.
These seven tips are just a starting point. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to support the mental health of your employees, but these strategies are a great place to start. This is whether you’re already offering some mental health support and want to strengthen your efforts or are building from the ground up. Hopefully, this guide has given you plenty of ideas to work with. Now get out there and make your workplace better for everyone.