Supporting Mental Health at the Workplace
Mental health in the workplace has become an important topic of conversation amongst employers in recent years. And rightfully so —certain estimates report that nearly $17 billion are lost in productivity annually when companies fail to support employee mental health. And even as mental illnesses are more common than ever before, according to a RAND study more than 2/3rds of employees are inclined to hide their conditions at the workplace due to stigma. Another study actually found that nearly 95% of employees who took time off due to stress were more likely to report an alternative, somatic condition such as a headache.
And the situation is worse still: 8 out of 10 employees with a mental health condition report that stigma or shame prevents them from seeking treatment altogether.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. By actively supporting the mental health of employees in the workplace, employers can not only encourage a positive emotional environment but also improve overall productivity, increase retention, and enhance creativity. Here are five ways to do just that:
Survey employees about their mental wellness Asking employees about their mental health is a great way of not only showing that leadership cares, but of understanding the specific issues most common to your workplace (e.g. stress, depression, etc.). This is an important starting point for providing the types of resources that will ultimately help employees.
Openly offer and provide mental health resources Providing employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be a beneficial way to address personal issues that may lead to more severe mental health situations. EAPs can address everything from family matters such as divorce, to conflict resolution in both personal and professional relationships, to recovery from substance abuse and trauma. Such programs can be provided directly in-house, through third-party organizations contracted for specific needs.
Provide mental health training Mental health training is critical on two fronts: first, for employees, so they understand how to access and utilize the resources available to them (EAPs, for example), and second, for managers, so they can identify signs of mental health conditions amongst team members and intervene when necessary. Indeed, appropriate interventions could include everything from offering flexible work hours and approving mental health days, to pointing towards an available EAP and facilitating a conversation with HR.
Include mental health coverage with healthcare plans Employees are much more likely to seek treatment when healthcare plans include mental health offerings. It is also important that such care be substantial in nature — i.e. enough psychologists and psychiatrists be in-network, and longer-term treatment (beyond a minimal number of sessions) be covered. Providing a health savings account (HSA) is an additional way to help employees offset out-of-pocket costs.
Promote open communication Emotional and mental well-being can and should be a central part of workplace communication, part-and-parcel of every monthly newsletter and every leadership talk on inclusivity. Regular workshops on mental health and self-care can promote a wider culture of well-being and overall camaraderie.
In addition to these methods to support mental health, one of the key solutions is indirect: encouraging social connection amongst employees. Common interest groups and regular office events can provide a sense of belonging and community that serves as a buffer against some of the most common workplace mental health conditions rampant today.
At Veery, we think about the employee experience holistically — and this means that the mental health and wellbeing of employees — is central to the way we build experiences. Making mental health a priority will not only benefit your employees, but your business! And we’re in the business of making businesses thrive!