Workplace Mental Health: 4 Ways to Support Employees
Published On: May 6, 2022
Through the trauma and disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a shift among employers nationwide in how to approach and normalize mental health challenges at work.
Approximately 66% of the nation’s workforce deals with mental health challenges, up from 59% in 2019, according to research from Harvard Business Review.
There are several benefits that come from supporting employee mental health that, in return, help your company. These benefits include:
Increased productivity. Studies have proven that treatment for mental disorders has reduced absenteeism and presenteeism by 40-60%.
Increased retention. More employees leave their jobs because of unsustainable and overwhelming workplace factors.
Decreased healthcare and disability costs. Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases are twice as high in adults with serious mental illnesses.
What was once a nice-to-have is now a business imperative. In the past year, the stakes have been raised high as employers navigate what workplace factors can contribute to poor mental health and its interconnectedness with DEI initiatives.
As employees continue to increase their expectations around mental health, how can employers embrace culture change that supports this societal shift? In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, read on four ways employers can support their workforce.
1. Include mental health coverage as part of your healthcare plan.
Mental health benefits can round out a comprehensive employee benefits package. Whether the problems are related to finances, stress, or other non-work conflicts, an employee assistance program (EAP) is a service to help employees that is sponsored by the company. Many top-of-the-line EAPs also offer mental health services such as counseling in person or through phone or video.
Other affordable options to provide employees include:
Mental health days for when employees need a break
Providing childcare services
Offering a flexible working environment
Asking a manager if an individual’s workload is manageable
2. Understand how mental health affects employees.
Company leaders and managers should be trained in recognizing the signs of employee distress and emotional burnout, so they can react in a supportive and non-critical way. Many employees need to see support from their leaders to feel comfortable enough to take time off, whether that is for a full day or an extended lunch break.
What steps can you take to recognize and understand the signs of burnout?
Make it mandatory for company leaders to take mental health training.
Understand the costs to your business if an employee's mental health or burnout is left untreated.
Conduct surveys to understand how mental health affects employees and if they feel like the company is doing enough to support their needs.
3. Increase access to mental health resources and reduce the stigma.
Offering mental health benefits is not enough; it must also be talked about in a positive light by leaders and managers for employees to feel comfortable talking about it themselves. Do your workplace norms support mental well-being? Leaders must step up and be role models for employees, opening up about their mental health struggles or demonstrating concern.
Make sure that mental health is talked about in all circumstances and situations. For example, don’t discuss your mental health benefits only during open enrollment season but all year round, especially when bringing on new talent and building your inclusive company culture.
Also consider the timing, frequency, content, and personalization of mental health-related communication to improve employee knowledge of resources. With only 23% of employers reporting that they have implemented an anti-stigma/awareness campaign in the last year, more work still needs to be done.
4. Make mental wellness a priority.
An incredible 80% of employers are concerned about employee mental health. However, only half of those respondents have made mental health a top organizational priority. The top reasons for expanding support are to promote employee productivity, increase satisfaction, and attract/compete for talent.
Ways to promote wellness:
Encourage employees to use their vacation time or other paid leave.
Offer access to apps that help reduce stress and help with sleep.
Allow flexibility–a top-requested employee benefit–whenever it is needed or requested.
Want relatable content? Read our webinar recap: Best Practices and Strategies to Support Mental Health in the Workplace and 5 Ways to Express Employee Appreciation Year-Round to learn more.