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How to Improve Employee Mental Health

Mental health issues are at the forefront of many business minds as awareness has increased significantly in recent years for what can be considered a growing issue. When discussing employee mental health, it doesn't necessarily mean mental illness.

In fact, an employee's mental health can include how they think, feel and act, as well as their emotional and social well-being. It is critical that businesses not only find a way to foster an employee’s mental health, but manage and track employee wellbeing as well, as mental health can shift over time depending on factors such as workload, stress, and work-life balance. 

Ways to Support Employee Mental Health & Wellness

Many adults who experience mental illness don't receive treatment, despite it being a common contributing factor to disability for 15 to 44 years old U.S. adults. As reported by a study from the Mental Health in the Workplace Summit, mental health issues have become the key reason for employee absenteeism rather than any other injury or illness.

It's common for employees to experience mental health challenges or mental illness. However, as an employer, it is important to create a supportive culture and work environment that helps employees overcome these challenges and hurdles. 

Employee Mental Health Awareness

Raising mental health awareness and destigmatizing mental health issues are the first steps to supporting employees.

Consider providing resources and information for employees in need of seeking help up front, as it can make communicating with managers or co-workers about any issues they may experience or be experiencing, much easier.

To establish a supportive workplace regarding mental health issues, consider these best practices:

  • Encourage social support with methods such as organized mental health support groups for employees
  • Create an anonymous portal to provide a safe space for employees to reach out to HR or managers for help
  • Provide training on problem-solving, effective communication, and conflict resolution 
  • Promote or create an employee assistance program (EAP)

Workplace Flexibility 

Work-life balance is one of the largest factors that can affect an employee's mental health. Simply put, poor work-life balance can make employee mental health take a turn for the worst.

Employers need to embrace workplace flexibility to help employees better balance their work and personal lives.

While each company is different, there are some common aspects of workplace flexibility, such as:

  • Flextime
  • Telecommuting
  • Unlimited paid time off (PTO) policies.
The above methods, as well as many other methods not listed, can provide employees with more job satisfaction, better health, increased work-life balance, and less stress.

Manage Workplace Stress

Chronic workplace stress is a contributing factor to increased employee fatigue, irritability, and health problems. Moreover, workplace stress causes U.S. businesses approximately $300 billion lost in productivity annually.

Common contributors to employee stress in the workplace include:

  • Heavy workload
  • Intense pressure to perform at high levels
  • Job insecurity
  • Long work hours
  • Excessive travel
  • Office politics
  • Conflicts with co-workers

While it is hard and somewhat impossible to completely eliminate job stress altogether for employees, it is possible to manage it in a way that keeps stress under control. Managers may want to consider implementing various activities to help workers learn how to manage it effectively and further improve employees' health, morale, and productivity.

Common best practices for stress management in the workplace include:

  • Ensuring appropriate workloads 
  • Regular meetings with employees to facilitate communication and gauge stress levels in the workplace
  • Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately
    • do not tolerate bullying, discrimination, or any other similar behaviors
  • Recognize and celebrate employee success

Utilize Employee Benefits Offerings

It's also important to evaluate your employee benefit plan and ensure that it supports mental health and wellness. Covering mental health services within your benefits offering is an essential step to creating a culture that supports employee mental health.

Common practices for addressing employee mental health using employee benefits include:

  • Financial planning assistant 
  • Employee discount programs, for things such as:
    • Gym memberships
    • Massages or acupuncture stipends
    • EAPs to support your employees

For help with modifying your benefits offerings to support employee mental health, contact an HR and payroll provider today.

Empower Managers with Employee Mental Health Training

Although the destigmatization of mental health has come a long way, the issues are still around and are hindering mental health support in the workplace.

One key solution to this is to properly train management in recognizing the signs of mental illness, excessive workplace stress, workplace bullying, and fatigue.

Managers should be well trained to handle potentially difficult conversations with employees about their mental health. Ultimately, managers should be prepared to speak openly about mental health rather than avoid the topic.

Employers can seek help with mental health management training from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Final Thoughts on Employee Mental Health & Wellness

Mental health is a real issue and one of the most important to address in the workplace. It's crucial to recognize its importance and take action to support employees and help them maintain their mental well-being, which will ultimately benefit your company in the long term.

If you ever encounter difficulties resolving this issue on your own, it's always wise to seek out professional guidance from an HR service provider.

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