Employee mental health in the workplace can affect the growth of a company if not attended to properly.
Mental health is an essential component of a person’s overall health as it plays a critical role in their ability to cope with everyday stressors and be productive and capable human beings. And yet, despite how essential our mental health is, mental health disorders are one of the biggest health concerns in the United States.
Almost every 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. struggle with mental illness, and 71 per cent of adults report at least one symptom of stress, such as anxiety, which can lead to mental health problems.
While there are a number of factors that can contribute to a person’s stress levels and mental health — such as personal relationships, financial troubles, and dealing with other health issues — one major area of concern is the workplace.
Workplace stressors can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental well-being, especially if the work culture and the company as a whole do little to support a healthier and more positive work environment. Thus, it is critical that employers start addressing employee mental health in the workplace to better support their employees’ needs.
If these issues are left unaddressed, it not only affects the employee but can affect the overall success of the company as well.
How the Workplace Affects Employee Mental Health
With so much of our lives spent working, it is important that our work environments are more supportive of our needs. Mental health and wellness support and resources are not simply a benefit or a “nice-to-have” — they are a necessity.
An employee’s mental health is and should be the concern of the employer because the job itself is a major contributor to employee stress levels. The more stressed an employee is, the worse their work output is going to be. In other words, when employee mental health suffers, so does your business.
80 per cent of employees say that work stress negatively affects their life, including their ability to do their jobs. As a result, reports have shown that this leads to nearly $200 billion in lost earnings each year, which is not a good outlook from a business perspective.
So, what exactly is the problem? How or why are workplaces affecting the mental health of employees?
The answer is a number of things are the problem. In many cases, it starts with inadequate health and safety policies or inadequate mental health benefits and resources. From the moment an employee is onboarded, they should have access to benefits and resources that support their physical and their mental health needs, but most companies only focus on benefits for physical health.
From there, any number of situations in the workplace can contribute to added stress, such as poor management and communication practices, performance pressure, job insecurity, and an overall negative work environment that doesn’t support ethics, equality, or healthy working relationships.
How Employee Mental Health Issues Affect Business
When employers don’t support mental health in the workplace, there are many things that can be negatively affected that eventually trickle down to affect the company as a whole. This can include:
- An increase in absenteeism
- A decrease in employees being focused and present while at work
- Lack of engagement
- Reduced productivity levels
- More issues with communication
- More tension and disagreements
- Poor decision making
- High employee turnover rates
If only one or two employees are affected, the above issues might not be apparent. But the more a company ignores mental health issues and fails to address concerns, the more it will start affecting a larger percentage of its workforce.
And when that happens, things can quickly start snowballing until overall productivity levels are down, turnover rates are high, and cash flow is reduced.
Benefits of Supporting Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing
If the above is the negative effects of a lack of mental health support in the workplace, it goes to say that the opposite would be the benefits if employee mental well-being was better supported. When employees are happier and healthier at work, they are going to be more capable of doing a better job; it is that simple.
So, again, addressing and supporting mental health in the workplace is not an “extra” that should be viewed as something the employer is going out of their way to give, but instead, it is a practical necessity that will boost employee performance and the success of the company as a whole.
When employee mental health is better supported, it can:
- Improve productivity levels
- Help employees better manage stress
- Improve communication
- Reduce tension and disagreements
- Improve capability and daily functioning
- Improve decision-making
- Reduce turnover rates
- Save the company money
- Improve work quality
- Benefit the overall success of the company
How Companies Can Better Support Employee Mental Health
So, how can employers better support and manage mental health challenges in the workplace? Here are some tips for better employee mental health support in the workplace:
1. Provide Access to Resources
First, access to professional mental health resources is essential. When employees are onboarded, they should be given information on how to access professional mental health support if needed. Furthermore, the coverage of mental health services should be included with health insurance benefits.
This can include giving them information on organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America (MHA). And it can also include providing access or resources for clinical mental health screenings, mental health coaches, and therapy.
2. Offer Mental Health Days
Ample PTO should be a part of any company’s benefits package today. Your employees need to be able to take time off to take care of themselves without fear of losing their job or losing out on income.
This includes not only supporting paid vacation and sick days but paid mental health days as well. Many employees feel that it is okay to use the time off for vacations or for when they are sick, but many feel that taking a mental health day is not essential.
Offering mental health days shows your employees that you care about their well-being, which will make them more likely to work harder for you. But it also allows them to take the time off without feeling bad about it, which means they can genuinely relax and take care of their needs, so they are better prepared to return to work when they feel better.
3. Encourage Open Communication
One of the issues that increase stress in the workplace is poor communication or employees feeling like they cannot openly communicate when they are struggling.
So it is important to create a safe space where employees feel more comfortable talking to their superiors or human resources about problems they are having so they can get the help they need.
4. Conduct Regular Check-Ins
Regular check-ins are also important. It should not always be up to the employee to speak out when they need help. Your managers should meet them halfway by conducting regular check-ins to ask how they are doing and to see if they need help with anything.
You can also check on your employees by conducting surveys and assessments. If there seem to be a lot of employees that are struggling, you can then hold a meeting to address the issues and offer resources for support.
5. Allow for More Breaks
Employees are humans with basic needs. Expecting them to work several hours without sufficient break time is only going to make them more stressed and less capable of doing their jobs.
So it is crucial that employees are allowed to take breaks throughout the day. This means not only telling employees that they can take breaks but actively encouraging them to give themselves a break when they need one.
6. Offer Wellness Benefits
There are many perks and benefits that companies can offer to further support employee well-being. It is all about the environment you want to make and what you are willing to budget for, but the more wellness perks, the better.
This could include discounts on gym or spa memberships, offering healthy snacks in the office, or even having yoga or meditation sessions in the office.
7. Promote Self-Care
Self-care is not just a trend about taking baths and doing face masks — it is about genuinely taking the time to listen to your body and giving it what it needs. Unfortunately, many employees put off self-care at work because they see it as something personal that isn’t for the work environment.
But it is important for employees to take care of themselves in and out of the workplace, and they will feel more comfortable doing so if their employer supports this endeavour.
8. Offer Flexible Work Schedules
Poor work-life balance can be a major factor in the stress levels of employees. If they are working too much and their day-to-day life does not allow enough time to take care of their personal needs or be social, it can lead to burnout and other mental health issues.
A great way employers can prevent burnout is to offer more flexible working schedules. This can be done by offering fully remote positions, hybrid work options, telecommuting, or even just allowing employees to work one day a week from home.
Doing this allows them to have more flexibility to balance their work and their personal life, which will reduce stress and issues in the workplace.
Support Better Employee Mental Health in the Workplace
In the end, there is no one right way to support employee mental health. But it can start with awareness.
Mental health issues exist and are prevalent in the workplace, and acknowledging this is the first step toward making changes that can lead to a healthier and more productive work environment.
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Ainsley Lawrence is a writer who loves to talk about good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. She is frequently lost in a good book.