Five Actions Your Company Can Take to Effectively Address Mental Wellbeing
According to the American Heart Association, more than 75% of the American workforce has struggled with at least one mental health issue, such as anxiety or depression. With an overwhelming portion of employees affected by mental illnesses, it makes perfect sense for employers to invest in mental well-being at work, especially when the average employee spends more waking hours at work than their own home.
Employers can have a huge effect on an employee’s well-being. Just know that to truly make an impact you’ll need to take a look at your current policies and not be afraid to make structural changes. Not sure how?
Here are five actionable solutions you can take as a company to foster mental wellbeing:
1. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it.
According to the American Heart Association, 42% of employees claim to have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder by a healthcare provider, but 63% of these people say they have not told their employer.
This just goes to show how afraid people are to bring up mental illnesses. There is an underlying stigma associated with mental health that prevents people from opening up and talking about it. Employers don’t want to pry and employees are afraid of looking less competent. If you want your workplace to foster mental wellness, establishing transparency is the most important component.
One way to ignite conversation at work could be holding a company-wide event centered around mental wellness. This could involve bringing in professional speakers, hosting a training day, or gathering all employees in a meeting to discuss current and future mental health resources and policies.
2. Offer mental health days – and actually encourage them.
How many times have you come up with an excuse like taking your kid to the doctor or food poisoning in order to take a mental health day for yourself? People do this all the time – even people who have paid mental health PTO with fear that taking a day off to clear the head might seem too dramatic to ask for.
Employers, just because you offer mental health days, that doesn’t mean that people will feel comfortable using them. Let your employees know that mental health days are okay and encouraged for their wellbeing.
Ben Congleton, CEO of Olark, set an incredible example when his employee Madalyn Parker requested a mental health day. In response to her note he wrote:
“Hey Madalyn, I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health – I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations. You are an example to us all and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.”
Parker shared this exchange on Twitter where it went viral. Simple encouragement from supervisors is important as it lets employees know it’s okay to take a day off to recharge.
3. Give your employees resources – here are some good ones:
- A medical plan that includes strong mental health coverage
- An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – This is pretty common for employers to offer. If you have an EAP already, make sure all of your employees know about it.
- Physical health resources; for example, providing an office gym or gym membership discounts and offering healthy snack options in break rooms.
Many employers fear that offering benefits like these may become pricey. However, in the long run, effectively addressing mental wellness could end up saving you money. According to the National Business Group on Health, unaddressed mental health conditions can actually end up costing employers more than $100 billion and 217 lost workdays each year.
4. Educate your staff and leaders.
Because mental illnesses don’t show physically the way a broken leg or asthma does, it’s hard to know who is affected. Some employees may know very little about mental illnesses and some may be suffering with no information on how to get help. Requiring company-wide mental health training benefits everyone.
It is also a great idea to host separate sessions just for managers, giving them the proper training on what signs of mental illness to look out for, how and when to bring up mental well-being and ways to provide resources and encouragement.
5. Create a company wellness committee.
Not sure what resources work best for your employees? Involve them in your decision making! Developing a company wellness committee is a great way to do this. Like an activity committee, employees can join at their own will. A wellness committee can also serve as a safe and encouraging place for employees to discuss and share their experiences with mental health.
Your employees are your company’s greatest asset. While tackling workplace mental health may seem like a daunting job, it’s worth it to create a healthy, open, and supportive work environment. Taking any one of these suggestions is a huge step in the right direction.