When employees are struggling, there are a lot of ways the employer can impact the situation both positively and negatively. We all know that mental health is a critical component of overall health, and mental health concerns among employees can quickly become problematic. It is in everyone’s best interests for employers to be supportive and helpful for employees both in general and when an employee has disclosed the need for assistance.
That said, it’s often the case that employees who are experiencing mental health concerns think they must struggle alone. There is still a stigma associated with dealing with mental health issues despite their prevalence. It’s getting better, but there are a lot of ways employers can be supportive—both for employees who have come forward and for employees in general—knowing that some employees may be quietly struggling with anxiety or depression (or other mental health concerns) without ever coming forward.
Note, these are general tips that can be broadly applied to be helpful for any employees who may have anxiety or depression; it is not a list of reasonable accommodations for specific individuals.
Ways to Help Employees with Anxiety or Depression
- Have a good employee assistance program (EAP), and ensure employees know about it and how to utilize it.
- Have an employee wellness program to encourage healthy habits.
- Offer health insurance. Simply having good health insurance that covers treatment for mental illness can help employees get treatment if needed.
- Have an open-door policy, and mean it. Employees should feel free to discuss their concerns and seek assistance.
- Consider allowing things like remote work, personal leave (paid or unpaid), and other similar benefits that employees can take advantage of when they need to.
- Properly administer the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as needed.
- Offer reasonable accommodations when an employee comes to you. Reasonable accommodations might include things like temporary adjustments in workload, additional days off, more frequent breaks, shorter work days, more private work space, or assistance prioritizing tasks. (This list is not exhaustive.)
- Train managers to recognize potential signs that employees are dealing with mental health concerns and to know what they should and should NOT do in this scenario. Managers should never make assumptions or attempt to “diagnose” an employee they suspect is having mental health concerns.
- Train everyone that employee concerns are to be kept confidential. If an employee comes to someone to discuss his or her concerns or anything he or she is dealing with, that conversation should only be divulged on an as-needed basis. It should be treated as confidential medical information.
- Communicate with all employees often to let them know what is going on with the business. Insecurity and being unsure of what the future may hold can be troublesome for someone who is struggling. Minimize uncertainties in the workplace through good communication habits.
- Give frequent feedback. Much like the last point, keep employees informed about how they’re performing.
- Implement ways to reduce employee stress. Pay attention to and take steps to prevent employee burnout.
- Frequently check in with employees to ask how they’re doing. Let them know you care about their well-being. Also check on overall employee morale, and take steps to improve it.
- Encourage healthy habits like exercise, good nutrition, and meditation.
- Whenever possible, provide things like natural light in the workplace, live plants, healthy food options, the ability to personalize workspaces, etc. These are all examples of the types of things that can have a positive impact on wellbeing.
- Encourage frequent breaks.
Remember that many employees who are suffering from mental health concerns may not want anyone to know, and that should be respected. There are a lot of actions employers can take to be supportive of anyone in this situation without actually asking about it. This list can get you started.