Mental health has become one of the most pressing issues for HR leaders in recent years—and for good reason. The statistics surrounding mental illness in the workplace are staggering. Every year, around 35 million workdays are lost due to mental illness, while more than 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness. Additionally, roughly 10.8 million full-time workers have a substance use disorder. Numbers like these show just how much employees are struggling with mental health issues. At the same time, as an HR leader, you’re probably struggling to address these issues, particularly with increasingly limited budgets.
Despite the tightening economy, HR teams still need to find ways to address these huge mental health challenges in the workplace. You’re tasked with finding creative solutions to support employee mental health, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Fortunately, there are many budget-friendly ways organizations can support employee mental health.
How Are Other Companies Tackling Mental Health in the Workplace?
For example, one large tech firm’s “Days for Me” program gives employees 4 days a year to focus on their mental health. Employees can use these days in any way they wish, as long as they spend time working on themselves. Another example is a global biopharmaceutical company’s “Mental Health Ally Program,” which teaches employees how to help colleagues who are developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. This program provides Mental Health First Aid training to help employees identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses.
Other organizations are rethinking their employee assistance program (EAP) benefits. For instance, a large energy company increased covered EAP appointments from five to eight per year per household and provided on-site EAP at customer care centers throughout the organization. Similarly, a pharmaceutical company switched EAP providers to make mental health services more accessible by allowing eight free face-to-face or virtual visits each year.
Organizations are also offering paid time off for wellness and mental health. For example, a data management organization launched Global Wellness Days, Global Shutdowns, and No Meeting Fridays to provide valuable paid time off to employees and allow them to pause, refresh, and renew themselves throughout the year.
Lastly, organizations can create stress-reducing environments for their employees with minimal cost. For instance, one manufacturing company set up de-stress stations at each on-site location where employees can unwind by working on jigsaw puzzles, playing word games, or coloring in mindfulness books. Additionally, a multitenant office building is now offering on-site dog parks where pets can join their owners at work. Other companies are using Zen rooms to provide a stress-free space where employees can meditate.
Leading By Example May Be Key to Success
HR leaders must continue to address mental health in the workplace. However, I know you need to be mindful of your budgets, too. The examples mentioned above illustrate there are many creative and cost-effective strategies that can help you support employee mental health. It’s also important for you, as HR leaders, to take an active role in promoting mental health. Along with your fellow executives, you need to lead by example and encourage employees to share their own mental health experiences and concerns. By taking the lead, you and your executive team can create a supportive workplace that prioritizes employees’ well-being.
Ann Wyatt is Vice President and Chief Client Success Leader at HealthFitness, where she oversees the company’s national account management team. Her role includes strategy development and driving engagement for new and existing health and fitness programs, employee recruiting and training, program quality assurance, and operations management. Wyatt holds a Master of Education in exercise physiology from Auburn University and a Bachelor of Science in physical education from Old Dominion University.