Over the past year, the attention to mental health illnesses has risen globally, a motion too long overdue. However, given the uncertainty we are all experiencing, it comes as no surprise that people, including your employees, are having a difficult time adjusting to the rapid changes affecting many aspects of their day-to-day lives.
Although pre-pandemic initiatives were beginning to gain traction, the current climate has forced many organizations to rethink the way in which they support mental health in the workplace. Truth be told, we have all been put to the test with situations we never imagined, leading to persistent feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and hopelessness.
Whether your organization has already taken initial steps to support mental wellness or is just starting to realize its value for your team, here are a few ways you can make it a part of your workplace culture and contribute to the wellbeing of your employees.
Mental health takes a significant toll on human behavior –– and oftentimes when an employee is coping with a stressful situation, they feel obligated to handle it on their own. Yet, it can be a challenge to not let these personal or professional stressors affect their ability to work. Taking the time to understand how mental health issues affect an employee is the first step in showing you care and helping them get through their current situation.
While every person’s experience is different, mental health has been shown to affect an employee's overall productivity and performance, as their focus, attention to detail and even their interest are impacted. An employee who is struggling with a mental health issue may also have higher rates of absenteeism and can ultimately impact your turnover –– all of which will have a significant impact on your organization’s success.
As you support and invest in the mental health of your employees, the benefits are sure to impact your day-to-day operations and even your bottom line.
For many, the cost of mental health services is one of the main reasons they don’t seek professional help. Fortunately, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was established to help offset these costs. As an employer, it is your responsibility to inform your employees of their options.
Employers are also broadening their benefit programs to offer specific mental health coverages. If this is your focus, it is important to offer insurance coverage that provides access to a variety of in-network psychologists and psychiatrists to accommodate your employees’ needs. The coverage you choose should clearly define what is and isn’t covered when it comes to mental health care coverage –– if not, it could discourage those seeking help from moving forward with the process. While these may initially increase employer benefit costs, it is more than offset by the bottom-line impact of a healthier, safer and more productive workplace.
To support mental health in the workplace, businesses can help employees address their personal challenges by providing exclusive access to online resources and non-traditional therapy options. Some common resources include mental wellness apps that have been designed by professionals in the field.
From meditation to stress relief, trouble sleeping or depression, there are apps to support all of the different areas that impact mental wellness. It is important to assess the app's effectiveness in supporting users through various stages of care and to ensure that it creates a personalized experience for your employees. Some examples include Happify, which is a mood training mental health app that teaches resiliency through gamification, and Calm and Headspace that encourage employees with relaxation and meditation techniques.
Virtual therapy/telehealth is another option that has been widely adopted as a result of the global pandemic and removes the barriers of getting help by putting the help right in the employees hand. Given the greater flexibility of scheduling, it can be an attractive option for those who may not have had time to visit a therapist before.
Enhancing Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Typically included in a comprehensive benefits package, EAPs are designed to assist employees who are resolving personal problems that are affecting their mental health. These work-based programs cover a number of issues including challenging life events, personal problems, and workplace issues.
Now is a great time to review your EAP program to ensure that employees are receiving enough support, such as direct counseling and treatment sessions, rather than just referrals to another agency. While in the past these programs offered two to three counseling sessions, that number could easily be tripled so an employee could get the support and direction they need to work through their situation. In addition, consider extending these services to other members of the employee’s family, including spouses, children, and non-marital partners who live in the same household. All in all, these programs are a valuable benefit to have in place at your organization and help to build trust with your employees.
While discussing mental health in the workplace may have been considered off-limits in the past, employers are now realizing the importance of expressing their support for their employee’s mental well-being. While programs and apps are helpful resources, companies need to take the additional step of educating their managers about mental health and equipping them to have open and honest dialogue with their employees about their well-being. Equipping managers means providing them the tools to engage with empathy and listening, so employees will be willing to share and ultimately receive the help they need.
Personal conversations are never easy, and even more so when in a professional setting –– which is why it is also important to offer all employees awareness and communication training. These workshops will provide employees with the necessary skills to support one another and discuss mental health issues, even in a professional environment. They will also help you identify the signs of someone who is struggling with a mental health problem and what steps you can take to support them.
The constant demands of the workplace and unexpected life events can make achieving a healthy work-life balance a daily challenge. Employees are often so concerned about the need to achieve that they prioritize their career above all else. Over time, this can lead to increased levels of stress, unhappiness, and eventual burnout in your workforce.
To maintain a high level of efficiency, your employees need time to restore their energy. One of the first things you can do to support your team is to educate them on the importance of a balanced life. This will make it clear to them that you support their wellbeing and want to provide them with the tools they need to find a balance.
As an organization, in addition to expanding access to counseling and mental health services, insist on your employees taking breaks and time off when they need to –– this will motivate your employees to pursue important aspects of their lives outside of the workplace, fostering a positive work culture where employees feel more engaged.
Building flexibility in your employee’s schedules is one way you can achieve work-life balance in your workplace. You can offer flexible arrival and departure times, the option to work from home either full-time or part-time, unlimited paid time off, and even extended time off for career breaks or sabbaticals. This allows your team to make arrangements for any personal situations that may arise while limiting the impact they have on their career and your business.
At Kinsley Sarn, we are committed to providing our clients with the necessary resources to create a positive work environment.
If you are interested in learning more ways to develop and support your employees, we invite you to check out our exclusive whitepapers, free to download. Crafted by our team of professionals, these publications offer valuable information to help you transform your business. Click the button below to browse our whitepapers.