Mental Health Awareness: 4 Ways to Support Employee Mental Health

employee-mental-health

One in every five US adults is affected by mental illness. It impacts your family members, close friends, neighbors, kids’ teachers and coaches, and colleagues working with you day after day.

But fewer than half actually seek treatment for their mental illness. Whether that’s because mental health has been stigmatized for so long, they lack insurance coverage, or some other reason, avoiding treatment is hugely problematic. Without it, people are at higher risk for physical diseases, family conflicts, financial troubles, and poor work performance.

As an organizational leader, you know that healthy employees—physically, emotionally, and mentally—are happier, more engaged, and more productive. That’s why it’s so important for companies to proactively support the mental health of their employees. Here are four ways you can do so.

Offer mental health benefits

These days, most insurance plans require coverage for mental health treatment. But like all other insurance plans, the type and level of coverage can vary significantly. As an employer, you can ensure adequate coverage for mental health services and therapy.

Aside from health plans, there are other mental health benefits you can offer, like paid time off. In addition to your existing PTO policy, offer paid leave for employees who need breaks to take care of their mental health. Whether they need a day to regroup, a week to recharge, or longer to seek treatment, make sure employees know what’s available to them. 

Many companies today are also offering occasional mental health days to their employees. It might be half-day summer Fridays, quarterly days all employees take off, monthly days employees can take at their leisure, or some other arrangement that works for your company.

Finally, offering other kinds of wellness benefits can also help employees take care of their mental health. Think things like therapy or meditation app subscriptions, gym memberships, or a financial stipend they can use for whatever helps improve their individual mental health. 

Help prevent burnout

Work-related stress is one of the main causes of anxiety and depression. And when it affects employees both during and after working hours, it can become a vicious cycle that’s difficult to escape. That’s when burnout happens.

The most important thing you can do to help prevent employee burnout is establish a company culture that supports work-life balance. In this case, actions speak louder than words—and proactively supporting balance for every employee starts at the top of your organization. That means everyone in a leadership position should act as role models for a healthy work-life balance.

Here are specific ways your organization and leaders can encourage balance:

  • Require managers to have regular 1-on-1s with direct reports. These check-ins may look different for each employee based on their individual preferences, but they should have one critical commonality: they should discuss workload, priorities, and challenges. Every manager should be expected to help resolve their direct reports’ challenges through prioritization, allocating resources, or creating more efficient processes.
  • Offer flexible work schedules. Employees should be trusted to get their work done during the hours that work best for them. If you trusted them enough to hire them, you can trust them enough to manage their individual schedules.
  • Discourage work-related communication outside of working hours. This is one area where leaders must set a good example. Avoid sending emails or DMs after hours and reserve evening/weekend phone calls and text messages for true emergencies. With most technologies now having functionality to schedule messages, there’s no excuse for contacting someone at 9 p.m. anymore.
  • Require your employees to use their PTO. Simply offering paid time off isn’t enough anymore. Many employees don’t actually take their PTO for fear of work piling up, looking uncommitted to their jobs, or feeling replaceable. Many companies today are even offering unlimited PTO with a requirement of taking 2-3+ weeks off each year.

For too long, many people accepted stress as part of their job. However, more and more leaders are realizing that preventing burnout is key to having a happy, healthy, and productive workforce. 

Create a work environment people love

When employees genuinely enjoy going to work and collaborating with their coworkers, that can make a big difference in their mental health.

In addition to establishing a culture that promotes work-life balance, it’s also important to promote kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness across the organization. Hiring people who show gratitude, give credit where it’s due, and assume positive intent will build the foundation for an organization where employees want to see each other succeed.

It’s also important to build a culture where doing impactful work is front and center. Providing growth opportunities—whether through professional skill development, promotions, or lateral moves—helps people feel like they’re progressing into something bigger. Encourage your leaders to have regular conversations with their direct reports about career growth and feeling fulfilled in their roles.

And while in those conversations, leaders should encourage employees to share what would make your organization a better place to work. At the very least, these conversations should take place during employee reviews, if not more often. You can also consider sending regular engagement surveys where employees are free to share their thoughts and feelings about their experience in the organization.

Normalize mental health awareness

For a long time, there has been a stigma attached to mental health. And since people are estimated to spend about one-third of their lives at work, it’s important that people can openly talk about mental health in the workplace.

Here are ways you can normalize mental health in the workplace:

  • Lead by example. Encourage your leaders to open up about the challenges they’re facing. No one—not even the senior-most leadership of a company—is immune to feeling overwhelmed or anxious at work. If your managers can show vulnerability, whether on all-hands calls, in team meetings, or during 1-on-1s, that will promote openness across the larger team. 
  • Create an inclusive workplace. A workplace that celebrates people sharing and overcoming challenges will help employees feel more comfortable discussing mental health. That said, not everyone will feel comfortable discussing their thoughts and feelings, no matter how vulnerable or inclusive your company culture is. Encourage employees to open up by asking how they’re doing, but don’t pry if they’re not willing to share much.
  • Encourage employees to start or join ERGs. Employee Resource Groups are communities of employees with similar backgrounds or interests. These groups provide a space for employees to safely share challenges and experiences both inside and outside of the workplace. An ERG could be for women, people of color, working parents, veterans, or even people with a passion for mental health advocacy.
  • Build a mentorship program. Either formally or informally, offer a way for senior-level employees to mentor more junior employees. Mentors can use their experience to offer perspective and advice to junior employees who are facing challenges in their careers.

Oftentimes, simply talking about mental health challenges helps people overcome them. Normalize mental health conversations in your workplace so your employees don’t suffer in silence.

Make your employees’ mental health a top priority 

Supporting your employees’ mental health increases productivity, boosts engagement, and reduces turnover. But more importantly, it’s the right thing to do. Your employees give so much of themselves to your company so make it an organizational priority to promote physical, emotional, and mental health.

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Ready to take your talent acquisition strategy to the next level? Request a demo to learn how SeekOut can help you recruit hard-to-find and diverse talent.

Request a Demo

Ready to take your talent acquisition strategy to the next level? Request a demo to learn how SeekOut can help you recruit hard-to-find and diverse talent.