Work can have a significant impact on mental health – and the shift to remote and hybrid work over the last few years has made even more of an impact, as employees struggle with loneliness and changes in communication. Adults spend most of their adult lives at work, therefore companies need to do all they can to protect the well-being of their teams.
Thanks to the growing awareness of population health and a shift in culture towards more preventative forms of care, mental health is something more people take seriously and will expect employers to help support, as work can have a great impact on this dimension of well-being. In order to stand out as an employer, you will need to demonstrate that your company culture is a supportive one that does not discriminate, and that you are taking steps to care for the well-being of your staff. Mental well-being is also a critical component of preventing potential population health concerns as well. Many employers gauge whether they need to implement mental health measures through company-wide initiatives and population health analytics.
There are lots of steps you can take to protect mental health in the workplace, including one-to-one meetings, mental health training sessions and better wellness benefits to promote well-being and prevent burnout. Many employers also turn to using a workplace health promotion in order to promote mental well-being.
Read on to learn more about this topic! Click on the sections below to jump right to your specific question.
- What is Mental Health in the Workplace?
- Why is Mental Health Important in the Workplace?
- What is the Cost of Ignoring Mental Health in the Workplace?
- What can Employers do if an Employee has Mental Health Issues?
- How can Managers Support Employees’ Mental Health?
- How does HR deal with Mental Health?
- What is the Most Important Thing for Mental Health?
- 4 Tips to Address Mental Health in the Workplace
- Closing Thoughts
What is Mental Health in the Workplace?
Mental health covers how we think, behave and feel. Common mental health problems include depression and anxiety – these issues can often be caused by a difficult life event but can also be from work-related issues.
It’s important to consider the mental health of your staff because work can often aggravate pre-existing conditions or make things worse. People who are depressed or managing anxiety might need extra help or support from employers.
Why is Mental Health Important in the Workplace?
More than half of the world’s population is currently employed and 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder. Without support, a mental health condition can affect all areas of a person’s life, including their ability to do their job. A person’s confidence can suffer, and they may struggle with their ability to focus. It can also lead to employees having to take more time off from work, which is why it is in the interest of both the worker and employer to protect mental health in the workplace.
Working is vital for mental health and recovery. Yet, many people with mental health conditions are left feeling isolated. It’s important to take the necessary steps to create a positive and supportive company culture for people to do their work and to protect mental health in the workplace.
What are 3 Reasons why Mental Health at Work is Important?
To run a successful business you need a strong and healthy workforce. If employees are struggling with their mental health, their productivity will suffer. Supporting staff wellbeing will make sure your employees are performing at their peak. They will take fewer sick days and are more likely to choose to stay and grow their careers with you.
Poor mental health can lead to unhealthy thoughts, a lack of impulsive control and poor decision-making, which can lead to low attendance, taking shortcuts in work, dropping commitments and not adhering to policy. Poor decision-making can have disastrous effects on both the employee and your business.
Choosing to invest in mental health in the workplace will mean you have happier and more fulfilled employees who will be more productive and make better decisions. Happy employees are more likely to choose to stay and grow their careerwith your company which will have long-term benefits on your organization. They will also have a positive impact on the company culture and will make your organization a more attractive place to work.
What is the Cost of Ignoring Mental Health in the Workplace?
Missed workplace due to mental health is estimated to cost the United States economy $47.6 billion annually. Not only is it important for your employees – but there is a huge business case for addressing mental health at work.
When employees are struggling with a mental health issue they will use more sick days and time off work, which can cost a business a lot of money. If your organization is not seen to be protecting the mental health of your workers it can also lead to high staff turnover.
What can Employers do if an Employee has Mental Health Issues?
If an employee discloses a mental health issue, their employer should take this seriously. It’s a good idea to have a discussion with the employee to find out more about their condition and what kind of support they will need at work.
Employers have a duty of care to do everything they reasonably can to support the safety, wellbeing and health of their staff. This will include carrying out risk assessments, protecting staff from discrimination and making sure their work environment is safe.
One of the key things you can do to help those struggling with mental health issues is to create a company culture where staff feel able to vocalize their feelings. If there is a supportive and open company culture, employees will feel more able to talk about how they feel and issues are less likely to build up.
How can Managers Support Employees’ Mental Health?
The best thing an employer can do to support employee mental health is to work with the employee to find a solution that can help them at work. Listening to an employee and working with them to make adjustments at work is key. Even simple changes can have huge benefits to an employee’s mental health – including things like helping them prioritize their workload or allowing them to take more rest days.
Hosting mental health training sessions or appointing mental health ‘champions’ can help to break the stigma, provide staff with mental health information, and allow people to communicate their feelings. Holding regular one-to-ones can give employees the chance to raise any problems they are having and make managers aware of any issues.
How does HR deal with Mental Health?
HR often protects mental health in the workplace by ensuring adequate mental health training is provided for all line managers. Through implementing mental health training, they will be able to easily spot the symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety and can work to help them. It’s also important to get ahead of the curve with stress management because many employees turn to coping mechanisms such as smoking in order to deal with their daily stress. It becomes very difficult to overcome a smoking habit at your workplace, and many employers have to turn to an expensive and time consuming effort such as a smoking cessation program.
Mental health policies and training can help give staff the guidance they need when it comes to mental health. When managers have heavy workloads, wellbeing will often fall to the bottom of their lists. HR can help them to understand the importance of mental health and provide them with the tools they need to look after their teams.
What is the Most Important Thing for Mental Health?
One of the most important things for mental health is our connection with other people. In the age of working from home, it’s very easy for people to feel isolated. When they feel unsupported at work it will add to their stress, so ensuring employees feel supported in their teams will have a huge impact on improving mental health in the workplace.
Making quality connections at work will mean employees are more engaged and have improved wellbeing. Loneliness and lack of social connection have a huge impact on how employees feel in and out of work. Tackling loneliness and supporting employees to build social connections at work can make a more resilient workforce and help them to have a stronger sense of company identity.
4 Tips to Address Mental Health in the Workplace
1. Make Adjustments
Someone with a mental health problem might need changes or assistance in their role to do their job, and these will depend on the individual and their mental health condition. Some of these adjustments include:
- Working from home can help people get a break from busy offices. However, it’s important to have regular calls and check-ins to ensure they stay connected to others and don’t feel isolated, as this can make the problem worse.
- Introducing flexible hours can help people to work around their moods and complete their work when they feel most able.
- Allowing time for more frequent breaks.
- Relaxed absence rules.
- Providing access to quieter rooms in the office.
- Allowances for time off for therapy and counseling sessions.
2. Listen to the Person with the Problem
Individuals are the expert when it comes to identifying what support they will need to help them with their mental health problems. The best thing you can do as an employer is to listen to them and not prescribe what you feel is best.
In some cases, people may feel unable to identify the appropriate adjustments they will need so you may have to try different things out. The best approach is to regularly review any support with the person to see if it is helping and adjust if needed.
3. Open up a Conversation
People who are struggling often won’t want to ask for help or speak about how they are feeling. It’s important for managers to regularly ask employees how they are feeling to allow them to open up. This will mean they get the help they need much sooner.
There is no special way to approach mental health conversations – all you need is empathy, common sense and listening skills. It’s better to ask than say nothing, as keeping things inside can worsen a problem. If you’re noticing a change in people’s behaviours or moods, differences in their work output or changes in their motivations it’s a good idea to open up a mental health conversation.
4. Introduce Wellness Benefits
Wellness benefits are a great way to demonstrate you are investing in employee mental health. Lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs) are growing in popularity as a way to allow employees to invest in their wellness in their own way.
They help to fund health and wellness costs that are not covered by traditional medical insurance – including things like counselling, corporate gym memberships, fitness classes and much more. Employers have the freedom to choose what expenses are covered and how much they can spend.
Modern healthcare tends to focus on treating the illness rather than prevention, but utilizing a lifestyle spending account encourages people to focus on wellness and building healthy habits to manage mental wellbeing effectively.
Particularly since the pandemic, mental health at work has been an important topic. Employers need to go the extra mile to ensure they are looking after employees’ mental health. They will need to nurture a positive environment where people feel able to speak up about how they are feeling and get the support they need.
There are lots of ways you can protect mental health in the workplace – from mental health training to making adjustments, to improved health and wellness benefits. If you are interested in exploring ways to use wellness benefits to address mental health in the workplace, we would love to help you! Feel free to schedule some time with our experienced benefits experts at your convenience.