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The Importance of Mental Health at Work

The Importance of Mental Health at Work

Mental health is becoming a more prominent topic in conversations about employee wellness. Some employees are experiencing burnout from poor work-life balance and long hours, while others have chronic conditions that impact their day-to-day lives. Whatever the cause, it is something employees are discussing more than ever, but not necessarily with their supervisors. Paychex found that over 69% of employees were willing to talk to a coworker about a mental condition, but only 20.9% were willing to discuss it with their boss. While your employees may not discuss their problems with you, it may have an impact that you should be aware of.

Why is Mental Health Important in the Workplace?

Mental health is important in the workplace because it can have an impact on employee performance. For example, depression can affect employee engagement; anxiety can affect communication and presentation skills; and attention disorders can affect job performance and perceived productivity. Unfortunately, conditions are often co-morbid, appearing alongside each other.

How to Support Mental Health at Work

Employers play an important role in ensuring their employees get the support they need to resolve problems that may arise from not maintaining mental wellness. Whether this support involves changing the company culture or implementing a policy that allows a day off for wellbeing, inclusivity shows that you value every staff member and their health. Here are a few effective ways you can accommodate your teams' mental wellness.

Open Dialogue Approach

One of the first problems to address when talking about mental illness is the stigma that surrounds it. This stigma is due to a misunderstanding of what they look like, and how common these struggles are. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 Americans (or 46.6 million people), live with a mental illness. Despite how common they are, 61% feel that there is still a stigma in the workplace around those with mental illnesses.

Fighting this stigma can be as simple as encouraging managers to talk about it in informal situations, sending internal emails or newsletters, or including the topic in a company-wide meeting. Whichever way you do it, starting the conversation will lead to more acceptance and awareness of the problem.

Schedule Regular Check-in Meetings

Although regular check-ins should already be a part of your process, employers should consider discussing topics outside of job-related tasks. If an employee is experiencing some external stressors but feels like they can't bring them up at work, their overall performance may suffer as a result. Providing he opportunity to discuss what's on employees' minds may be enough to see some improvements.

Regular check-ins can also create an opportunity for employers to point to helpful resources that can create a positive work-life balance, or address issues that pay a role in overall mental wellness. It is important that employers keep the specifics of the conversations confidential as it is unprofessional and unethical to do otherwise.

Accommodate Employee Needs

Accommodating individual employees with more specific issues will allow them to operate on an equal playing field with – and can often benefit – the entire team. The Job Accommodation Network maintains a list of ideas on how to manage a wide variety of issues, from helping employees create and manage a calendar or task list, to creating an area for napping.

While some recommended accommodations may be specific to one employee’s needs, others are company-wide initiatives. These can include expanding remote work options, allowing unlimited vacation days, and creating a flexible work schedule. While none of these are cost-free, the benefit they could provide to all employees may be worth it to your company.

Mental Health and Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is heavily impacted by how seriously you take mental health at your company. For example, an individual employee struggling with their mental wellbeing may be less engaged with their job and peers. If you provide avenues for them to discuss any issues without judgement, that employee will likely be more engaged in return.

The benefits can apply to your entire workforce, even those who don’t directly engage with any of the mental health benefits you set up. 60% of employees report that they’d be more motivated to work for a company that supports mental wellbeing. For employees, seeing that their employer cares about them holistically rather than just as workers gives them a reason to be more engaged. It is also worth noting that some actions, like expanding health insurance to cover all health-related benefits, have a larger impact on employee engagement than employees’ overall salary.

Invest in Your Team’s Mental Wellbeing

Investing in the mental wellbeing of your employees will result in better job performance and an overall increase in engagement. Educating your staff, providing avenues to openly discuss issues, and proactively finding ways to accommodate needs are cost-friendly but effective steps towards taking mental wellness seriously. Demonstrating that you care for your teams and want the best for everyone can impact your employee engagement, retention rates, and reputation as a great place to work.

Improving your company’s relationship with mental health can begin by conducting an internal feedback survey to identify areas for improvement. Barometer can help you track and analyze your survey data to turn it into actionable steps. Click here to learn more!

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Published by Tom Aberman October 1, 2020
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