The pandemic has changed nearly everything, and its effect on mental wellbeing in the workplace is no exception. As we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month for the month of May, it’s important to take note of some recent trends in the workplace as it relates to mental health:
- In a report from July 2018, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
- According to Mental Health America, a record 5.4 million people took a mental health screening in 2021. The results showed that 103% more people suffer from mental health issues since 2020, an astonishing increase of nearly 500% since 2019.
- The CDC reports that depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time.
So, what can HR professionals and employers do to help? By adopting a more holistic approach and understanding of mental health, you can help shift the culture to prioritize compassion and support as a company value.
Here are four strategies you can use to improve mental wellbeing in the workplace:
1. Embrace Workplace Flexibility
To help employees find balance between their work and professional lives, employers throughout the U.S. are embracing workplace flexibility. This can include flextime, hybrid work models, summer hours, unlimited PTO policies and implementation of mental health hours within your PTO policies. Flexible schedules and work arrangements provide employees with job satisfaction, better health, increased work-life integration and less stress.
A simple yet effective idea is to host a 10 to 15-minute meditation workshop during which employees are encouraged to mute notifications for a short time so they can fully engage in meditation. For non-desk employees, encourage participation by utilizing the workshop as time for an additional break.
2. Address Workplace Stress
Nearly 80% of Americans consider their jobs stressful. Increased employee fatigue, irritability and health problems are just a few side effects of chronic workplace stress.
While you can’t eliminate job stress altogether for your employees, you can help them learn effective stress management techniques. Common work-related stressors include a heavy workload, intense pressure to perform at high levels, long work hours, office politics and conflicts between colleagues.
Implement these strategies to help reduce employee stress:
- Ensure that workloads are appropriate.
- Have managers meet regularly with employees to facilitate communication.
- Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately.
- Celebrate when employees succeed—this improves morale and decreases stress levels.
- Provide onsite or virtual access to mental health providers.
- Purchase “stress less” kits for your employees—these can include items like stress balls, adult coloring books and essential oils
3. Implement Mental Health Training for Managers
The behavior and actions of leaders reflect the true intent of the organization. With the proper training, managers can become advocates for mental health within their teams and your organization.
When an employee is experiencing a mental health crisis, grief or an emotional challenge, leaders should be prepared to handle the situation with support, compassion and empathy. These are powerful skills for leaders to harness, especially within a corporate setting where results can take priority over people and their experiences.
Consider hosting a Mental Health First Aid Training for managers and executives. Training leaders at the top of your organization can help cultivate a positive workplace culture that supports mental and behavioral health issues and illnesses.
4. Evaluate Your Benefits Offerings
Examine the benefits you offer to ensure that they support mental wellbeing, too. Do your current health plans cover mental health services? Reviewing your organization’s offerings is essential to creating a culture that supports employee mental health.
Additionally, see what supplemental benefits you can offer to support mental wellbeing. Consider enhancing your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with virtual access to mental health providers or a mindfulness/meditation app. Offering perks like financial planning assistance and employee discount programs designed to support your employees can play a key role in reducing stress and improving employee mental health.
To learn more about benefits options and ways that your organization can better support employee mental wellbeing, contact MJ today.