Five Ways to Kickstart Employee Mental Health Programs

As the modern workplace continues to evolve, many companies are beginning to see the importance of prioritizing mental health – psychological and emotional well-being. Mental health is currently considered one of the most burdensome health concerns in the United States. Approximately one in five adults have reported a mental illness. Whether you’re part of a in-person work environment or a remote team distributed across the country, mental health needs are important. Anxiety and depression have increased about 25% globally which has made mental health a core focus for businesses and employees alike in the past few years. Businesses that adapt and promote mental health set themselves apart from their competition. It also helps with employee engagement and retention. Here’s how you can prioritize mental health in your business.

Why Mental Health Matters in the Workplace

Managing mental health reduces the risks and costs of employee burnout. Employee burnout is both bad for the company and the employees and should be addressed before it escalates. One in five employees struggle with high stress at work. Sustained high stress levels can lead to poor decision-making, declining health and aggressive leadership. 

Once elevated stress reaches a critical point, it becomes burnout. Burnout is differentiated from stress with a few particular symptoms. Feeling tired or exhausted, a lack of enthusiasm, increased negativity towards your job, and decreased ability to do your job are what moves stress into the category of burnout. It is thought that the cost of burnout can be in the millions based on the lack of employee productivity, retention and missed work. 

Improving mental health benefits and resources can also increase employee resilience. Resilient employees with strong mental health are better communicators and more efficient workers. Strong mental health allows a person to form and maintain healthy relationships, cope with life’s ups and downs, and have a positive self-image. This, in turn, leads to good communication, confidence in their abilities and increased productivity. 

Lastly, offering mental health benefits is a competitive advantage; top employees will want to work for and stay with companies that support their complete health picture. Benefits that support mental wellness are becoming a priority in younger generations. A survey from the Harvard Business Review showed that 50% of millennials and 75% of Gen Z have left a role due to mental health reasons. 

Five Ways to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

So, now you know why mental health matters in your business. But you still might be wondering how you can promote mental health practices in your workplace. While each workplace is different with unique demographics, these are some proven ways to promote mental wellness. Below we’ve compiled a list of five ways to support mental health in your workplace:

1. Offer Mental Health Days

Employees who might be distant or preoccupied won’t be as productive as they usually are at work. Even if an employee is having a bad mental health day, they more than likely won’t want to use their paid time off (PTO) to stay home. Adding in an option for this specific type of day off will alleviate employees’ guilty feelings about using PTO because of their mental health and help destigmatize mental healthcare in general. 

Mental health days can give them the opportunity to heal, rest and sort things out if need be. When they return to work they will be more able to focus on work with improved morale. Implement an honor system for mental health days; if employees are worried that they’ll have to explain themselves for taking a day off, they may forgo taking the time off, which could be counterproductive. The more accessible and confidential this can be, the easier it will be for employees. While mental health is becoming easier to talk about, many still fear the stigma of being labeled as mentally ill. 

2. Create an Employee Assistance Program

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) help employees thrive by assisting them (and their families in most cases) as they address challenges that may be impacting their performance. An EAP program is completely voluntary and confidential, giving employees resources such as counseling services, substance abuse services, legal or financial services, and much more. These services are instrumental in helping employees balance work and life. 

They can also help employees manage overall stress levels, regardless of life circumstances. You can encourage your employees to take advantage of these services by reinforcing the fact that they are anonymous. Many people fear being judged for needing help or any form of counseling. By reinforcing their right to privacy they can feel confident enough to seek help for their struggles. Overall, an EAP is a relatively low cost for employers to provide which makes it an easier option to implement. 

3. Encourage Employees to Take Time Off

Getting away and taking time off can reduce stress and burnout. Many employees don’t take their time off because they are afraid to fall behind or feel like they cannot use their PTO, but by encouraging employees to take the provided time off and restructuring the team to ensure projects stay on track, they can remove the guilt of not working. In addition to encouraging employees to take their paid time off, management should also be taking time off. If they lead by example and show the standard of taking time away to rest and recharge, then employees will follow suit. 

Leaders and managers on PTO should be fully disconnected and not responding to emails or joining meetings. Showing how to disconnect from work and making it safe for employees to do so will make it easier for them to take their time off. Employees who take time away from work are more satisfied with their jobs than employees who don’t take time off and also see an increase in productivity and creativity. This helps reduce employee stress and burnout. 

4. Create a Supportive Environment

Employees that are working remotely might feel isolated and cut off from other employees. This lack of socialization can reduce job satisfaction and increase turnover. Encouraging employees to stay connected through chats, games or special events can engage everyone and build connections across the company, remote or not. Providing time for socialization for remote workers can help strengthen their commitment to their team and the company. Active employee engagement is important in retaining employees and improving morale. Employees who feel supported are better at collaborating, happier, more focused and more efficient.

5. Reduce Stigma

Regardless of how you promote mental health, reducing stigma is essential. The best ways to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health are by:

  • Talking about mental health
  • Educating employees about mental health
  • Being conscious of the language used regarding mental health
  • Acknowledging that mental illness is illness. 

Employees need to know management has their back when taking time off or discussing mental health with their supervisors. Making it safe and easy to talk about their mental health is key. Management should be educated about mental illness and be an ally to those who suffer from it. Newsletters, communications or announcements at meetings can all help send the message that your workplace wants to be a leader in mental health, and that your employees are valued. By being an openly proactive and accepting employer of mental health you can help reduce the stigma surrounding it. Sharing self-care tips, like taking breaks and walking around, taking your own time off, and talking about your own experiences with mental health can help managers connect with their employees.

Society Insurance Has Your Back

At Society, we aim to make a difference in the lives of our employees by ensuring their physical and emotional well-being. Explore how we give our employees an edge.

To learn more about how Society Insurance can help protect your business, contact your local agent today.

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