The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we work, with stress and mental health issues becoming increasingly normal in the workplace.
With the sudden shift to remote work, social distancing, and economic uncertainty, the physical and psychological effects of stress, fatigue, and anxiety can easily burn out even the most productive employees.
As more leaders view employee mental health as a top priority, organisations are now looking for ways to support their employees, as 81% of individuals put companies with strong mental health initiatives at the top of their list.
In this article, we will dive into the benefits of promoting mental health as well as the most effective strategies to improve employee mental health.
What is mental health?
In general, mental health encompasses the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of individuals, all of which influence how we think, feel, and act in different life situations.
It also involves being able to realize one’s own potential, handle normal life stresses, make healthy choices, build meaningful relationships, and contribute to the community.
In the workplace, the meaning of mental health slightly shifts to include how employees cope with work-related stressors, as well as their overall performance, satisfaction, and engagement.
It usually covers an employee’s ability to stay focused and motivated, contribute to the company’s goals, maintain healthy relationships with colleagues, and manage personal and professional demands, even in stressful and uncertain situations.
Why is mental health awareness important?
A healthy workplace that supports mental health benefits both the employees and the company. Employee mental health is a major factor in overall team morale, productivity, and performance, which ultimately boosts the bottom line.
When employees are mentally healthy, they are better equipped to handle day-to-day challenges that come their way and make decisions more efficiently.
With this, employers can gain significant advantages, such as lower absenteeism, higher job satisfaction, improved retention rates, and reduced healthcare costs associated with mental health issues.
Whether you’re a local marketing agency or a multinational tech company, organizations that invest in mental health programs produce happier employees and see positive financial returns in the long run.
What are examples of mental health benefits?
More than 70% of employees believe that their employers are taking mental health more seriously than before. Beyond offering traditional benefits such as remote work and flexible work hours, organizations can extend their support to employees by introducing the following initiatives:
- Four-day workweek
- Mental health days off
- Flexible vacation policies
- Paid parental leave policies
- On-site counseling services
- Insurance with an excellent mental health coverage
What are the impacts of mental health on employees?
Dealing with mental health issues at work can be a difficult and sensitive topic to navigate. But when organizations make an effort to champion the mental health of their employees, it can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on the workplace.
One out of five employees reports poor to fair mental health in a 2022 Gallup survey, filing 12 days of unplanned absences in a year compared to just 2.5 days for others.
Lower productivity and higher absenteeism rates are often caused by a lack of motivation, stress, and burnout. But addressing these issues can make employees more efficient and engaged and the company more productive and profitable.
Mental and physical health go hand in hand—when one suffers, so does the other. Burnout is usually caused by long hours, lack of control over job duties, and a feeling of being unappreciated at work.
When you create spaces and policies that encourage work-life balance, such as flexible working hours and remote work options, they are less likely to experience burnout.
Reduced costs and risks
When employees are struggling to stay afloat, whether due to burnout or another mental health challenge, the business itself is likely to suffer. Productivity and morale both take a hit, leading to a negatively impacted bottom line.
On the flip side, mentally well employees pose a far smaller risk to company financials and productivity. They’re able to maintain a consistent work pace, manage daily stressors, and deliver on important tasks.
How to improve mental health in the workplace?
A typical workplace environment can be a breeding ground for mental health issues. Working long hours, juggling multiple tasks, and dealing with difficult colleagues or customers can cause too much stress on employees.
While it’s not always possible to address every factor contributing to mental health issues in the workplace, there are some ways that have been proven to be effective in creating a culture of well-being.
Cultivate a supportive work environment
Gone are the days of a strict, authoritarian work culture. The modern workplace should be built on mutual respect, trust, support, and collaboration among all levels.
Anything from employee recognition programs and team-building activities to open-door policies and flexible working arrangements can help create a relaxed yet supportive work environment.
Promote your Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) offer several services and resources to help employees cope with personal or work-related issues.
Whether you’re struggling to find your inner purpose or dealing with a difficult situation with a colleague, an EAP can provide free access to counseling, online resources, and other helpful services that can help you get through your situation.
Create a relaxation space
More and more companies are introducing relaxation or wellness spaces for employees where they can take a few minutes off their workday to relax and recharge.
Whether it’s an outdoor terrace with yoga mats or a separate room with massage chairs, having a designated area where employees can unwind and de-stress will go a long way in supporting employee mental health.
How can a manager support an employee?
As a manager or HR professional, you are in a unique position to support your employees and address any mental health issues they may be facing proactively.
One of the best ways to do this is by providing a safe space where you can engage in emotional conversations that focus on the employee’s feelings and experiences. Remember that these conversations should be confidential, non-intrusive, and non-judgmental in order to build trust and foster an open dialogue.
Be it for the well-being of your employees or your business productivity, supporting the mental health of your workforce should be an ongoing priority.
While it’s impossible to completely eliminate mental health issues from the workplace, businesses can greatly benefit from creating a culture that values and promotes mental health.
At Kilpatrick Executive, we provide executive coaching programs that can help you take proactive steps to ensure that your employees are supported when they need it the most.
Learn more about our services here.