Mental health in the workplace seems to be on everyone’s mind these days – from skyrocketing burnout to the “Great Resignation,” we know we have a problem. The good news is that organizations around the globe finally realize that mental health support is a critical measure of business and organizational success.
The pandemic may have increased awareness of this global problem, but mental health challenges have been common for a very long time. The National Institute of Mental Health Disorders estimates that one in every four adults suffers from a mental health disorder, and many deal with more than one at a given time. With World Mental Health Day upon us, I strongly encourage you to take a moment to evaluate the mental health support that your organization offers to your employees.
World Mental Health Day is organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness of mental health issues worldwide. For HR professionals, it is a good reminder to think about the state of mental health in your organization. Being supportive means creating an environment that reduces the stigma around mental health challenges and providing a range of support options. While it is great for companies to offer initiatives around World Mental Health Day, your employees’ mental health needs to be a focus year-round.
There are three ways organizations can meet the need for employee mental health resources: looking, listening, and acting. Critically, mental health support needs to come from the top down—when HR leaders and C-suite executives put themselves at the forefront of this organizational initiative, real change occurs.
Below are some practical tips HR leaders can use to better support the mental health and wellbeing of employees today and into the future.
It is important for employers to understand the state of mental health in their organization. HR teams should confidentially solicit employee input about what is affecting them the most. Try an anonymous survey. Communicate clearly to your employees that you are not tracking any personal information and your only goal is to improve everyone’s wellbeing. Over time, you can work to create an environment where employees are more comfortable sharing how they feel. More and more senior leaders in organizations are sharing their challenges with mental health issues to help create this comfort.
By improving your understanding of your employees’ perspectives, you can better tailor mental health support options to be more effective and ensure that they are utilized by the employees that need them. This is especially important with remote workers when we do not have the same ability to easily gauge stress levels and wellbeing through body language.
It is not enough to just gather input from employees; you need to listen to it without judgment. Employees are more likely to share how they feel and seek assistance if they know they are being heard without fear of reprisal. Part of this is creating an environment that allows employees to feel safe being open about when they are not feeling OK.
To do this, work with company leadership to reduce the stigma around mental health challenges in the workplace.
- Encourage managers and leaders to check in with employees and their direct reports frequently to see how they are doing.
- Engage in open and honest conversations about the importance of taking care of ones mental health.
- Show short mental health education videos at company meetings to start the conversation.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that some employees may never feel comfortable sharing how they feel openly. So, options should be provided for them to anonymously have their voices heard and confidentially select and access the mental health and wellness resources they need.
Finally, show support through actions. It is important to offer a range of mental health support options for employees to choose from. HR leaders should strive to provide diverse resources to help employees be their best selves personally and professionally. Everything from expert-led educational videos and blogs to direct access to counseling has its place. Many best-in-class organizations have realized that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all and have successfully implemented various wellness support levels.
With these tips in mind, HR leaders can work to destigmatize mental health issues in the workplace and help their organizations better support their employees’ mental health. It is not only the right thing to do; it is imperative for business success. When people are happy and healthy, they are naturally more present and productive at work, and this type of environment fosters success for everyone.
Michael Held is the CEO and founder of LifeSpeak, is a leading software-as-a-service provider of a platform for mental health and total wellbeing education for organizations committed to taking care of their employees and customers. Michael understands that when people struggle with life’s issues, the impacts are far-reaching and typically affect both their personal and professional lives.