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Employee Mental Health: How to Promote Well-Being at Work

Mental health awareness in the workplace is essential and is becoming a key focus within the HR industry. As many as 1 in 5 adults in the US live with mental illness. Therefore, it’s important for workers to know how to identify these issues and how to support employee mental health.

Work can often be the main cause of workplace mental health issues. Whether it’s due to work-related stress, anxiety, workplace bullying (mobbing), microaggressions, or other aspects of the work environment. Therefore, addressing mental health and positively promoting it to your employees, should be a priority and will positively contribute to employee motivation, and satisfaction. This, in turn, will ensure that empathy and psychological safety form a part of your work culture definition. 
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How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health issues can have a negative impact on the performance of an employee and consequently, affect business. Therefore, if your employee is experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or another form of mental illness, it’s crucial that you are familiar with the ways that you can support your employee’s mental health before it negatively affects their performance.

The first step to supporting mental health in the workplace is by treating mental and physical health with the same importance.  It is critical to consider both while creating a healthy work environment.

Here are some simple yet effective ways of promoting Mental Health Awareness and supporting your employees:

Encourage Top-Down Cultural Change

In order to make an impact, leaders should be encouraged to actively promote healthy work habits.  Establishing clear lines of communication through one-to-one meetings and feedback surveys can help them to detect any issues that may be affecting employees.  Simple check-ins and extra support can do wonders to prevent employee burnout and toxic work environments.

Offer Mental Health Screenings and Support

Treating mental and physical health with the same level of importance means offering employees access to mental health professionals.  This can mean offering employees depression screenings or health insurance that covers medications and therapy treatment.  Additionally, free coaching sessions, counseling, and self-management programs can lead to positive change.  Prioritizing psychological care can make the difference as to whether or not someone receives the treatment that they need.

Consider Employee Feedback

If you are unsure about how to address employee mental health in your organization, let employee feedback guide your initiatives.  While gaining insight from employees, try to determine whether workplace stress is arising from managers, policies that affect working conditions, or excessive workloads.  Try to find out what is the preferred course of action to reduce stress. Do employees want more paid time off? Should managers go through additional workplace stress training?

Mental Health Training For Employees

Aside from helping employees to overcome issues that they are currently facing, mental health training for employees can help them to recognize symptoms of stress and take actions to prevent larger problems from occurring.  It’s a great way to proactively change your work culture for the better.

Here are some tips and examples to consider while organizing employee mental health training:

  • Utilize educational material from public health departments and community centers
  • Consider outside factors that influence mental health.  For example, free financial counseling and gym membership might help employees to reduce stress
  • Train managers recognize symptoms of stress and burnout.  This will help them to better support their team and promote healthy practices.

Alternatively, workplace training isn’t the only way you can promote mental health awareness in the workplace. You can also do this by adopting simple yet effective practices such as regular one-to-ones, employee satisfaction surveys, free online screening tools, encouraging regular discussions, and so much more.

Benefits of Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace

US workers are looking for employers that promote and support workplace inclusivity, diversity, and employee wellbeing. Therefore, employers that take the initiative to promote mental health in the workplace will easily attract, hire and retain workers.

As an employer, it’s essential to put the needs of your employee at the forefront of your business and to ensure you are leading a happy and healthy team and workplace. As we mentioned, healthy doesn’t just cover physical health but mental health too. 

Here are just some of the benefits of raising awareness about mental health at work:

  • Increased productivity and performance- According to the WHO, for every $1 USD invested in mental health treatments, there is a return of $4 USD in productivity)
  • Increased employee engagement- Healthy work environments promote openness and trust.  Naturally, these environments value participation, inclusion, and belonging.
  • Improved internal communication- When there is poor internal communication, turnover and attrition rates go up.  Internal communication is especially important for hybrid and remote working environments.
  • Reduced workplace hostility- Work environments that promote employee mental health tend to be able to address difficult topics, like politics and social injustices.  In hostile work environments, employees often feel unheard, unrespected, and undervalued.
  • Reduced absenteeism and physical illnesses- According to the WHO, negative working environments may lead to both mental and physical health problems, substance abuse, and productivity loss.

As you can see, employee health and performance are inseparable.  Therefore, it is critical that HR managers take a holistic approach when considering employee health, company growth, and overall progress.

How to Reduce Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace

It isn’t always easy to open up about mental issues and problems.  This is especially true in circumstances in which one wants to uphold professionalism and a good image.  However, it is important for teams to support each other when they are facing difficult situations. The key to reducing stigma is by fostering a culture of openness, empathy, and transparency.

As mentioned before, healthy workplace practices start from the top of an organization.  Leaders play an especially important role in creating a trusting environment and reducing mental health stigma.  One way in which they can do this is by truly empathizing and sharing their own experiences with employees.

Although benefits and training programs can play an important role in reducing stigma, the most important part of the equation is a company’s internal practices.  It begins with compassion and vulnerability.New call-to-action

Terminating an Employee with Mental Health Issues

Can you fire an employee with mental health issues? In brief – the answer is yes. If your company is unhappy with the performance of an employee due to a mental health illness. By law, you must find a fair reason for dismissal. This reason may be that the employee is incapable of carrying out their job properly or the absence of the employee is affecting the business performance.

Alternatively, if the employee’s mental health disorder is classified as a disability, unfair mental health dismissal is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this situation, an employer must make any necessary changes to how the employee is working in order to improve their mental state. Employers can do this by adjusting working hours, offering appropriate aid such as software, or physical features in the office, such as disability aid.

Mental Health Leave in the US

Under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), employees may legally take time off for medical needs, including mental health.  FMLA states that employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during this time.  Employees are allowed to use this time to take care of their own health, or the health of a spouse, child, or parent.  After the 12 weeks have passed, employees must be allowed to return to their position or to an equivalent position.
However, employers and employees should keep in mind the following conditions surrounding mental health leave and  stress leave from work:
  • In order to qualify for FMLA, employees must provide documentation of mental illness given by a health care professional.
  • Employees must have worked at a company for at least 12 months before asking for leave.
  • Depending on the situation, employees need to give at least 30 days’ notice of their absence.
  • Businesses with under 30 employees are not necessarily required to abide by FMLA laws.
  • FMLA entitles employees to unpaid leave.  Employers are the only ones that can determine whether or not an employee should receive paid time off.
All in all, the mental health and well-being of your employees should be a priority in your company. And even more so after the pandemic. By going the extra mile and listening to the needs of your employees, your support will have a considerably positive effect on your retention rate, company culture, and brand image.

 

This post is also available in: English UK

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