Improving Mental Health in the Workplace
In recent years, there has been a growing urgency to understand how to improve mental health in the workplace. In fact, a full one in five adults in the US cites a mental health concern. Employers are starting to recognize that a healthy workplace ensures both physical safety and emotional and mental well-being. After the challenges of the pandemic and a more remote workforce highlighted the importance of wellness, it is now more critical than ever for employers to find ways to improve employee mental health.
Research has shown employee mental health struggles can significantly impact productivity, engagement, communication with colleagues, and overall job satisfaction. This can have direct ties to costly absences, lost productivity, and higher employee turnover. Aside from the direct impacts on business, there are indirect costs, such as decreased morale and a lack of trust in the workplace.
As you can see, the days of ignoring mental health and expecting employees to “just keep working” are gone. Companies that are proactive in supporting employee mental health will reap the benefits of a healthier and more productive workforce that is better suited to power the business forward in these challenging times.
Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace
There are several reasons it’s crucial to support employee mental health. First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do. Employers are responsible for ensuring employees’ well-being, especially while they are at work. We spend a significant portion of our lives at work, which means that unhealthy work environments can impact overall mental health and well-being. Increases in burnout, stress, and anxiety can lead to decreased productivity and a lack of engagement in and outside of work.
In addition to a moral obligation to support mental health, there are several other reasons to help employees improve their mental health that also benefit employers. A healthy workforce is more productive, has improved focus, and demonstrates more motivation. Employees who feel supported in all aspects of their wellness with access to mental health resources are also more likely to stay in their jobs longer, contributing to greater job satisfaction and reducing costly turnover.
These aspects contribute to a larger societal benefit as well, as we need mentally healthy and fully engaged employees to fill the available roles needed to continue to power our economy. It’s the brain power of employees that generates new solutions and ideas to propel our society forward.
Finally, supporting mental health can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. When businesses prioritize mental health and make it a part of their corporate culture, it sends a powerful message that employee efforts to stay healthy are valued and supported. This can help create a supportive and understanding environment for those experiencing mental health issues and reduces the fear of discrimination or judgment when an employee needs to discuss these issues within the work environment.
Keeping lines of communication open and fostering an open dialogue about mental health can go a long way in creating the safe space necessary to encourage employees to seek the help they need.
What Companies Do to Promote Mental Health
As mental health becomes more of a priority in the workplace, companies are implementing a range of strategies to support their employees’ well-being. Here are some examples of what companies are doing for mental health:
Providing Mental Health Benefits
Many companies are now offering a variety of mental health benefits as part of their employee benefits package. These benefits may include access to counseling or therapy services, telehealth services, employee assistance programs (EAPs), or other resources to support mental health. Employee wellness programs may provide strategies like yoga classes or meditation sessions.
Creating a Supportive Culture
Companies are beginning to recognize the importance of creating a supportive culture that prioritizes mental health. This may involve promoting work-life balance by offering flexible schedules, allowing remote work, or creating opportunities to participate in wellness activities at work. Companies may also encourage open communication by providing regular check-ins with employees, hosting mental health workshops, or creating mental health resource groups.
Managers play a crucial role in supporting employee mental health. Companies are providing training for managers on how to recognize and respond to mental health issues, create a supportive work environment, and support employees in crisis. This training may include education on mental health disorders, crisis management, and communication skills.
Offering Mental Health Days
Some companies now provide mental health days as an addendum to regular sick leave or paid time off, which allows employees to take time off work to focus on their mental health. These days can be used to attend therapy appointments, take a mental health break, or engage in self-care activities. Mental health days can help reduce burnout and stress, leading to a more productive and engaged workforce.
Prioritizing Mental Health in Evaluations
Some companies incorporate mental health metrics into performance evaluations. This may involve assessing how well managers support their employees’ mental health or enabling employees to rate how their well-being is supported over time. By integrating mental health into performance evaluations, companies can demonstrate their commitment to mental health and help create a culture where employees feel valued and supported.
By implementing these strategies, companies can create a more supportive and inclusive work environment that prioritizes mental health. It benefits both employees and the business by reducing stress, increasing engagement, and improving overall well-being.
Managing Employees with Mental Health Issues
Managing employees with mental health issues requires a compassionate and thoughtful approach. Here are some more detailed tips for managing employees with mental health issues:
Foster a Culture of Understanding and Empathy
As a manager, creating a culture of understanding and empathy is essential. Encourage open communication and let employees know their mental health is a priority. Managers can better support their team members by creating an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health.
Providing accommodations can help employees with mental health issues manage their workload and reduce stress. Accommodations may also be required by the ADA. These accommodations may include flexible work arrangements, such as adjusted work schedules or remote work options.
Connect Employees with Resources
Employers can provide resources to support employees with mental health issues. These resources may include counseling or therapy services, employee assistance programs (EAPs), or mental health resources provided by the company’s health insurance plan. By offering these resources, employers can help employees access the care they need and manage their mental health.
Address Stigmatizing Language and Attitudes
Language and attitudes surrounding mental health can perpetuate stigma and make it difficult for employees to seek help. As a manager, it’s essential to avoid stigmatizing language or attitudes and work to create an inclusive workplace culture. Providing education and training regarding mental health and the impact of stigma can help reduce the shame and embarrassment some employees may feel.
How Can Managers Improve Employee Mental Health?
In addition to managing employees with mental health issues, there are ways managers can support employee mental health across the entire staff. Here are some tips for promoting overall employee well-being:
Encourage and prioritize employee self-care via taking breaks when needed, getting enough sleep, eating well, and engaging in activities that promote mental and physical well-being. This can include wellness resources such as yoga classes, meditation sessions, or fitness classes.
Provide Opportunities for Professional Development
Providing opportunities for professional development can help employees feel valued and supported. It can also help reduce stress by providing employees with the tools they need to succeed. Managers can provide access to training and development programs, mentorship opportunities, or professional networking events.
Recognize and Celebrate Accomplishments
Celebrating the things employees are doing well can help boost morale and create a positive work environment. Recognizing successes can also help reduce stress by creating a sense of accomplishment and validation. Managers can provide incentives such as bonuses or promotions for exceptional performance or offer verbal recognition and appreciation.
Normalize Mental Health Conversations
Managers can create a supportive environment by encouraging open conversations about mental health in the workplace. This can help reduce stigma and create a culture where employees feel comfortable talking about their mental health. Managers can lead by example by sharing their own experiences or creating opportunities for employees to learn about mental health.
Provide Mental Health Training
Managers can benefit from training regarding recognizing and responding to mental health issues in the workplace. This can help managers identify signs of distress in employees, respond appropriately, and provide appropriate resources and support. Training may include education on common mental health disorders, approaching mental health conversations, and creating a supportive work environment. Employees may benefit from training as well.
Foster a Culture of Inclusivity
Managers can foster a culture of inclusivity by promoting diversity and acceptance in the workplace. This can help employees feel valued and supported regardless of their mental health status. By creating a culture of inclusivity, managers can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and create a supportive work environment for all employees.
Managers can show empathy and understanding toward employees who are going through a difficult time. They can offer a listening ear and show compassion toward the employee’s situation. Acknowledging the employee’s feelings and providing emotional support can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Managers can provide information about resources that can help employees during a crisis. This may include counseling services or support groups to help employees manage their mental health. Providing information about these resources and how to access them can help the employee feel supported and empowered.
Being flexible with work arrangements can help employees manage their mental health during a crisis. Managers can consider offering time off or other accommodations to help employees manage their stress levels. This can include flexible work schedules, reduced workloads, or remote work options.
Check In Regularly
Checking in with employees regularly can help managers understand how the employee is coping and offer additional support if needed. Managers can ask how the employee is doing, listen actively, and provide guidance or resources as appropriate.
Hiring a Behavioral Health Navigator to Promote Wellness
Hiring a behavioral health navigator is one way to support employee mental health. A behavioral health navigator is a trained professional who can provide support and resources to employees who may be struggling with mental health issues, such as:
Assessing Individual Needs
Behavioral health navigators can determine an individual’s unique needs and recommend appropriate services. This may involve conducting a comprehensive assessment of the individual’s mental health and substance use history, identifying any co-occurring disorders, and assessing the individual’s current support system.
Connecting Individuals with Services
Behavioral health navigators can guide employees as they access mental health and substance use services, such as psychiatric care, individual therapy, group therapy, support groups, psychiatric medication management, drug and alcohol detox, substance use disorder rehabilitation, and aftercare treatment. They can help individuals navigate the healthcare system and identify resources that are accessible and affordable.
Advocating for Individuals
Behavioral health navigators can serve as an advocate for individuals who are struggling with mental health issues. They can help individuals communicate their needs to healthcare providers, employers, and other stakeholders and ensure their needs are met. They can also provide information on legal rights and other resources that can support individuals in their recovery.
Providing Ongoing Support
There are many benefits to hiring a behavioral health navigator. Behavioral health navigators can support individuals throughout their recovery journey. They can help individuals set and achieve recovery goals, connect with peer support groups, and monitor progress over time. They can also guide in managing relapse and other challenges that may arise during the recovery process.
By providing these services, behavioral health navigators can help individuals improve their mental health and quality of life, as well as reduce the pressure placed on managers to help employees navigate mental health care without expertise. Behavioral health navigators can also help reduce the burden on healthcare systems by promoting early intervention and preventing more severe mental health problems that may require more expensive treatments. Behavioral health navigators play an important role in supporting individuals and communities in pursuing mental health and wellness.
Behavioral Health Navigation to Promote Mental Health
Employee mental health should be a top priority for any organization. Supporting mental health benefits employees, managers, and owners alike by leading to increased productivity, reduced healthcare costs, and a more positive workplace culture. Don’t let mental health issues go unaddressed in your workplace – take action today.
At Apogee System Consultants, we offer expert behavioral health navigation services to support individuals and organizations in their pursuit of mental health and wellness. Let us help you navigate the complex mental health system and connect with the resources you need to support your employees.
Contact Apogee and take the first step toward a healthier and happier workplace.