The CDC reports that 1 in 5 people experience mental health problems in the workplace. Issues like depression, ADHD, and anxiety affect the US labor force.
Mental health is as important as physical health, which we should all be taking seriously. But for some reason, mental health always seems to take a backseat. That needs to change.
Employers and employees must start working together to create a supportive environment for those struggling with mental health. Read on for ways you can prioritize employee mental health in your business.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health is a term used to describe our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It influences our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Mental health is often seen as taboo, but it’s important to open up the conversation in general and at the workplace. The discussion also aids in the management of stress, interpersonal interactions, and decision-making. Poor workplace mental health leads to various problems, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. If left untreated, mental health problems impact every aspect of our lives in a negative way.
What Are Some Symptoms of Employee Mental Health Issues?
There are a variety of symptoms that indicate a potential mental health problem in the workplace. Look for these symptoms as the warning signs:
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Experiencing low self-esteem
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feeling isolated and withdrawing from others
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Feeling irritable, angry, or restless
- Having suicidal thoughts
What Causes Workplace Stress?
Stress leads to many health issues, both mental and physical. It’s important to identify the source of stress and address it head-on. Many things cause workplace stress, such as:
- Heavy workloads
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Conflict with co-workers
- Job insecurity
- Poor workplace environment
- Feeling like you’re not being appreciated or recognized for your work
- Not having enough support from your boss or co-workers
- Having a challenging commute
- Dealing with tricky office politics
Dealing With Mental Health Issues in the Workplace
- DISCUSS: If you’re going through a mental health issue, it’s important to tell your employer. In order for your employer to help, they must know what is going on.
- SEEK SUPPORT: Don’t be worried about your employer’s reaction; a supportive employer will always help you. They’re not going to judge you or think less of you. In fact, most employers are supportive when it comes to mental health issues. They want the best for their employees so they’ll be productive at work.
- DEVISE A PLAN: Once you’ve told your employer, work together to devise a plan. This might include taking a leave of absence, working from home, or changing your hours.
- HEAL: It’s also important to find a support system at work. This might be a colleague, your boss, or an employee assistance program. Having someone to talk to makes a world of difference.
Creating a Supportive Environment for Employees
As an employer, there are a few things you can do to create a supportive environment for your employees. Have open discussions free of criticism. Provide resources, such as information about local counseling services, mental health care centers, or employee assistance programs.
It’s also a good idea to have a policy for employees dealing with mental health issues. This policy should outline the accommodations that will be made and how the employee can get help.
Make sure that your managers are trained to deal with mental health issues. This helps them provide support to employees who are dealing with these issues.
Here are eleven ways to create a positive health environment.
1. Talk About It
The first and most important step is to start talking about mental health. Create an open, accepting workplace where employees feel free to discuss their mental health problems. One idea is to host a regular company-wide meeting or training session on the topic.
People with mental health issues often feel isolated, are not comfortable talking about it, or are in denial. Open discussions will help to break down the stigma and make employees feel more comfortable seeking help.
2. Encourage Open Communication
Encourage open communication between managers and employees. Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable coming to their manager with any concerns they have, including mental health concerns. This will help prevent problems from worsening and allow you to address any issues.
Make sure to train your managers in how to deal with mental health issues. They should know how to listen and be supportive without being judgmental.
3. Offer Flexible Work Hours
One of the best ways to support employees with mental health problems is to offer them flexible work hours, if possible. A flexible schedule helps reduce stress and makes it easier for employees to get the help they need. It also allows employees to take time off when they need it without worrying about a pay cut.
This way, they can create a schedule that works best for them and their needs.
4. Offer Mental Health Days
Offering mental health days is another great way to support employees during times of stress. This gives them a chance to take a day off to relax or address their stress causes. It can also be used as an opportunity to seek professional help.
Ensure your mental health days are paid, and employees are not penalized for taking them. This will help to ensure that employees feel comfortable taking the days they need.
5. Provide Access to Mental Health Resources
Make sure employees have access to mental health resources, such as counselors, therapists, and support groups. These resources are helpful for employees struggling with mental health issues.
Make this a part of your benefits package so that employees know it is available to them. You’ll find yourself attracting and retaining top talent with this in place.
6. Allow Work From Home Days
Apart from mental health days, another way to support employees is to allow them to work from home when needed. This can be done on an as-needed basis or as part of a regular schedule.
Working from home helps to reduce stress and can be a great way for employees to get the work done that they need to without having to come into the office.
Working from home eases the pressures associated with commuting and working with the distractions of co-workers and workplace chatter. It also gives employees the flexibility to take care of their mental health needs without having to take time off from work.
7. Encourage Breaks
Encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. This will help them recharge and come back to work feeling refreshed.
8. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Promote a healthy lifestyle by providing resources such as gym memberships or healthy food options in the office. Encouraging employees to live healthy will help them feel mentally and physically better. Physical activity has been shown to help reduce stress and improve mental health.
9. Hold Team-Building Activities
Holding team-building activities are great at promoting mental health in the workplace. These activities help to build trust and communication within a team. They can also be used as an opportunity to get to know your co-workers better.
10. Respect Personal Space & Check-in Regularly
Respect personal space by not putting too much pressure on employees. Understand that some days will be harder than others and give employees the space they need to deal with their mental health problems. Don’t ask too many questions or make them feel like they need to explain themselves.
Check-in with employees to see how they’re doing. Checking in with employees could be done in several ways, such as through one-on-one meetings, group meetings, or even just a quick email. Make sure to celebrate successes, no matter how small they may be.
This will help employees feel appreciated and motivated to continue working hard.
11. Listen Without Judgment and be Patient
Make sure to listen to employees without judgment. This way, they will feel comfortable talking to you about their mental health struggles.
Remember to be patient with employees who are dealing with mental health problems. It can be a long and difficult journey, but it’s important to be there for them every step of the way.
Last but not least, offer your personal support to employees who are dealing with mental health problems. Mental health issues isolate people, so showing your support makes a big difference. Let them know that you’re there for them and will help in any way.
Be Proactive About Employee Mental Health
With a career focused on digital marketing, Chitra is a specialized SEO-Content marketer. After moving from biotechnology to business operations and marketing, Chitra started her digital marketing career as a freelance content developer and technical writer. With Axiom, as a content marketing & SEO specialist, she is passionate about creating informative marketing copies for optimum search engine performance.