Is there a workplace reason to pay attention to mental health? The answer is a resounding YES!
If you have not personally experienced a mental health struggle at some point, you probably love someone who has. From a compassionate angle, this is an important topic to all of us because we care about our family and friends and want them to be healthy. But why should organizations care about this topic?
Let’s start with some statistics:
- 1 in 4 adults will experience a mental health condition. (https://askjan.org/disabilities/Mental-Health-Conditions.cfm)
- 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year and 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year (www.nami.org)
- According to a recent online Gallup survey, 19% of U.S. workers rate their mental health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor,’ leading to increased unplanned absences. These workers are estimated to have nearly 12 days of unplanned absences per year, resulting in an annual cost of $47.6 billion in lost productivity for the U.S. economy. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/employees-fair-poor-mental-health-170521983.html?.tsrc=fin-srch&tpcc=NL_Marketing&guccounter=1)
- The survey also revealed that 33% of U.S. workers believe their job has a “somewhat negative” impact on their mental health, with 7% reporting an “extremely negative” impact.
- The average delay between symptom onset of mental health issues and treatment is 11 years. (www.nami.org)
While much is written about how to support employees in the workplace with treatment and care options, let’s instead think about how to avoid mental health triggers and burnout from occurring in the first place. What are some things employers can do to proactively support employees mental health in an effort to prevent or minimize stressors? Here are some ideas:
- Establish a cadence of well-deserved breaks after a big project wraps up
- Ensure employees take vacation time and use sick days when they are not feeling well
- Offer mental health or personal days
- Start a campaign to encourage use of your EAP to address mental health concerns early
- Normalize talking about mental health and educate employees
- Allow for therapy appointments during work hours
- Consider bringing in a mental health counselor on site weekly or monthly to meet with employees who want to schedule a session
- Host wellness activities
- Shut-down over the holidays to ensure that everyone gets a break and time off to spend with loved ones and friends
- Support parents with extra time off when kids go back to school or to college
- Offer flexible scheduling to attend or volunteer at school and community events
- Provide paid time-off when employees become grandparents
- Identify resources to help source, train and place providers of childcare and eldercare
- Provide career counseling and interview support for families with high school and college students
We know that managers play a critical role in employee happiness and engagement. Leadership training for managers is a necessity to ensure they are tooled properly to create an environment that their direct reports can perform optimally. Additionally, we need to educate managers on the following:
- How to recognize the warning signs of mental health issues
- How to proactively support their team members when they do see the warning signs
- How to regularly check in with employees on their work loads and on them personally
- How to be proactive when you see a need for an accommodation and oversee the process
And then, hold managers accountable. Measure how well they support their employees’ work-life balance and how they model it themselves. This can be included as an annual performance goal.
To proactively manage mental health in the workplace, we need to create environments where employees feel supported, cared for, and heard. To elevate your employee experience, contact MelissaB@wearecompass.com.