In recent years, mental health has become a topic of conversation in the workplace, and for good reason. There is a growing awareness that mental health issues can have severe consequences for not only an individual’s ability to perform their job but also their overall well-being.
It's important for employers to recognize this and take steps to create an environment that encourages employees to take care of their mental health.
Understanding Mental Health
According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses refer to health conditions that involve changes in emotions, thinking, or behavior or a combination of these. These conditions are associated with distress and problems in functioning in social, work, or family activities.
In the past, the stigma around mental illness has prevented many people from seeking treatment, leading to significant consequences for affected individuals and their families. Mental health awareness has grown in recent years, and people are now more vocal about mental health issues.
However, mental illnesses are still underestimated compared to physical diseases. This underestimation of mental illnesses can have serious consequences for the workplace.
Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
Given the statistic that more than 20% of adults live with a mental illness, there is a high chance that some employees in your organization might be affected. Mental illness can lead to:
- Decreased productivity. Mental illness can can significantly impact an individual's ability to focus, concentrate, and perform their job responsibilities effectively, leading to decreased productivity in the workplace.
- Increased absenteeism. Employees with mental illnesses may experience more frequent absences from work due to symptoms, treatments, or the need for mental health care, resulting in increased absenteeism rates.
- Higher turnover rates. Untreated or unsupported mental health conditions can contribute to employee dissatisfaction and disengagement, leading to higher turnover rates within the organization.
- Interpersonal conflicts. Mental illness can affect an individual's emotional regulation and social interactions, potentially leading to conflicts or strained relationships among coworkers or with supervisors.
- Impact on teamwork and collaboration. Mental health challenges may hinder effective teamwork and collaboration within a department or across teams, as individuals may struggle to communicate, contribute, or cooperate effectively.
- Safety concerns. Certain mental health conditions can impair judgment, decision-making, and situational awareness, posing safety risks for employees, particularly in high-risk or demanding work environments.
- Diminished morale and job satisfaction. A workplace environment that lacks support for mental health can result in lower morale and job satisfaction among employees, affecting overall team dynamics and organizational culture.
- Missed opportunities for innovation and creativity. When individuals are struggling with mental health challenges, they may have difficulty accessing their creativity, problem-solving abilities, and innovative thinking, potentially hindering the organization's ability to thrive and adapt.
"It's estimated that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness."
~National Institute of Mental Health
10 essential steps employers can take to foster mental health awareness and cultivate a positive employee culture
Establish a culture of openness and support- foster a work environment where mental health is openly discussed and destigmatized. Encourage employees to share their experiences, struggles, and successes with mental health to create a safe and supportive atmosphere.
provide education and training- offer mental health education and training programs to employees, managers, and leaders. This can include workshops, seminars, or guest speakers who provide insights into various mental health conditions, coping strategies, and available resources.
implement policies and resources- develop comprehensive mental health policies that outline support mechanisms, accommodations, and resources available to employees. This can include access to mental health services, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and flexible work arrangements to support work-life balance.
lead by example- encourage managers and leaders to prioritize their own mental health and well-being. When leaders openly discuss their own mental health challenges and demonstrate self-care practices, it sets a positive example for employees and promotes a culture of acceptance and understanding.
foster work-life balance- create a work environment that promotes work-life balance and encourages employees to take breaks, utilize vacation time, and engage in activities outside of work that contribute to their mental well-being. Implementing policies that discourage excessive overtime and support boundaries can significantly impact employee mental health.
establish peer support networks- encourage the formation of employee resource groups or support networks focused on mental health. These groups can provide a safe space for employees to connect, share experiences, and offer mutual support.
provide access to mental health resources- collaborate with healthcare providers and insurance companies to ensure that employees have access to mental health services and resources. This can include providing information about available mental health providers, coverage options, and confidential counseling services.
Regularly evaluate and assess employee well-being- Implement regular check-ins or surveys to assess employee well-being, job satisfaction, and levels of stress. This feedback can help identify areas for improvement and guide the development of targeted mental health initiatives.
promote work-life integration- encourage activities that support mental well-being within the workplace, such as mindfulness sessions, yoga classes, or stress reduction workshops. By incorporating these practices into the work environment, employers can create a culture that values holistic well-being.
continuously Improve and Adapt- mental health awareness and support should be an ongoing process. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of mental health initiatives, solicit employee feedback, and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that the workplace remains a positive and supportive environment.
Ensuring That Employees Know About Mental Health Support
Ensuring that employees are aware of the mental health services available to them is crucial for creating a supportive work environment. However, despite the prevalence of mental health issues, "a majority of workers (57%) are unable to confirm the existence of easily accessible mental health support services in their workplace -- 24% report the absence of these services, and another 33% are unaware if they are even available through their employer." (Gallup)
Here are a few ways employers can effectively communicate and promote the availability of mental health services:
- Develop a clear and well-defined communication strategy to inform employees about the mental health services offered by the organization. This strategy can include regular email updates, newsletters, intranet portals, or internal communication platforms to share information about available resources.
- Create brochures, pamphlets or digital materials that outline the mental health services available to employees. These materials should include details about counseling services, Employee Assistance Programs, helplines, and any other mental health resources accessible to employees. Distribute these materials during onboarding, company events, or wellness initiatives.
- Incorporate mental health services into new employee orientations or onboarding programs. Allocate specific time to educate new employees about the organization's commitment to mental health and the resources available to support their well-being. This will ensure that all employees, regardless of their tenure, are aware of the mental health services from the beginning of their employment.
- Organize informational sessions or workshops that provide detailed insights into the mental health services offered. Invite mental health professionals or representatives from EAP providers to share information about the services, confidentiality measures, and how employees can access and utilize these resources. These sessions can be conducted periodically or in response to specific mental health awareness campaigns.
- Place posters or visual displays in common areas such as break rooms, hallways, or restrooms to raise awareness about mental health services. Include contact information, helpline numbers, or QR codes that direct employees to online resources where they can find more information. These visual reminders can serve as gentle prompts and reinforce the availability of mental health support.
- Leverage internal communication channels such as company intranets, newsletters, or collaboration platforms to regularly highlight mental health services. Share success stories, testimonials, or articles related to mental health and well-being. Encourage employees to share their experiences with utilizing these services, fostering a sense of trust and openness.
- Provide training and resources to managers and supervisors to equip them with the knowledge and skills to support employees' mental health needs. This includes educating them about available mental health services and teaching them how to effectively communicate and refer employees to these resources when necessary.
- Emphasize the confidentiality and privacy aspects of mental health services to ensure that employees feel safe and comfortable seeking help. Clearly communicate the measures in place to protect employee privacy and ensure that their personal information will remain confidential.
- Regularly solicit feedback from employees regarding their experiences with accessing mental health services. Conduct surveys, focus groups, or anonymous suggestion boxes to gather insights on the effectiveness of the services, potential improvements, and any barriers employees may have encountered. Actively address feedback and make adjustments as needed to continuously enhance the accessibility and utilization of mental health resources.
- Mental health should remain a priority throughout an employee's tenure. Continuously remind employees about the availability of mental health services through periodic reminders, updates in company communications, or even designated mental health awareness campaigns. This ensures that employees are always informed about the support available to them.
In recent years, mental health has emerged as a crucial topic in the workplace. There is a growing awareness of the significant impact mental health issues can have on individuals' job performance and overall well-being.
Employers must take proactive steps to create a work environment that prioritizes mental health and supports their employees - and ensuring that employers know what mental health support is available to them.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit https://ulliance.com/ or call 866-648-8326.
The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!
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How Mental Health Awareness Can Help Shape A Better Workplace, Jonathan Gary, Forbes
Mental Illness, National Institute of Mental Health
The Economic Cost of Poor Employee Mental Health, Dan Witters & Sangeeta Agrawal, Gallup
What is Mental Illness? American Psychiatric Association https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness