Eight ways to support employees’ mental health

Despite the summer beginning, and things looking a little brighter, research from the American Psychological Association, Stress in America: January 2021 Stress Snapshot, found adults reporting their highest stress levels since the crisis began early last year.

Eight ways to support employees’ mental health

Nearly one-third of Americans have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression in the past year, a 200% jump from what was reported before the pandemic. Sejal Hathi, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the growing mental health crisis is due to the direct viral effects of Covid-19 and the mass trauma the pandemic has inflicted.

With this in mind, organisations need to focus on a central question: how can they strategically mould their culture to help employees navigate these mental health challenges?

Healing from a year like we’ve had will take time, and organisations need to build a plan to support both their employees and the business goals. Here is what mental health experts recommend. 

1. Protect mental health 

During these challenging times, organisations must make an effort to prevent exposure to undue stress and situations that could cause employees’ mental distress. They should consider offering employees flexible work hours along with the ability to take a mental health day off. 

2. Expand benefits 

HR departments should ensure that mental health services are included in their benefit plan at an affordable rate. Many with treatable conditions struggle to find affordable, high-quality care.  

3. Consider different employee needs 

Remember, not everyone has the same needs. There are now five generations of employees in the workforce. Whether it's Gen Z entering the workforce or baby boomers delaying retirement due to the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis, we all have unique needs. Make sure benefits and wellness programmes accommodate a multi-generational workforce.  

4. Model self-care 

The stigma with openly discussing mental health challenges in the workplace remains. The only way organisations can reduce the stigma is through vocal and robust leadership. Leaders can start by sharing their experiences with challenges such as burnout. They should model self-care and setting boundaries to make it safer for others to do the same. 

5. Promote resources 

Many organisations have physical health initiatives, such as running competitions. Make sure there are also initiatives to promote emotional wellness, such as meditation clinics or yoga.  

Make sure your employees are aware of available mental health resources and encourage them to use them. Qualtrics found that almost 46% of all workers said their company had not proactively shared available mental health resources. 

6. Overcommunicate 

The Qualtrics study also found that employees who feel their managers are not good at communicating are 23% more likely than others to experience mental health challenges. Leaders should keep their team informed about changes, updates and progress. 

And remember that each person's situation may evolve. Checking in with employees is critical to building relationships and adjusting projects and processes as needed. It’s about providing flexibility while ensuring the critical work gets done. 

Basecamp CEO Jason Fried recently announced that employees with any caretaking responsibilities could set their own schedules, even if that means working fewer hours.  

7. Embrace positivity

Can the workplace be a source of positivity that energises and fulfils employees to help them show up as the best version of themselves? When leaders bring empathy, hope, trust and compassion to their organisations, work becomes a positive experience instead of one filled with anxiety.  

One of the most effective tools to create positivity, belonging and purpose is through tools such as our Social Recognition® tool. The science tells us that organisations that support social recognition: 

  • align people and culture to purpose 
  • reduce voluntary turnover 
  • increase engagement
  • boost employee happiness.

8. Measure and adjust 

Ensuring people are doing well does not need to be complicated. It can be handled through a simple pulse survey done regularly to understand employees' primary stressors and needs. This enables leaders to build and adjust employee programs that enhance health and wellbeing support. Moodtracker® is a free, advanced pulse survey tool built by our data scientists, making it fast and easy to get to the heart of employee issues. 

Employees are going to need the time to adjust once we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. Organisations need to meet employees where they are and provide an environment of support and compassion. To survive and thrive, employees must become the organisations’ centre. 

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The author is Lynne Levy from Workhuman.

This article is provided by Workhuman.

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