For the longest time, mental health was a taboo topic that people avoided having conversationsabout. People silently suffered and those who got help were made fun of and ridiculed. Over time, with a lot of hard work and effort, we successfully destigmatize mental health to some extent. It is still difficult for some people to talk about mental health, but we have made some progress on that front.
Companies and big organizations glorify struggle and hustle. From putting in long hours to not having a life outside of work, thislifestyle is commended by many employers.
There is a place for hard work, buta company culture that disregards mental health is a key contributor to the worsening mental health of its employees. Work is an important part of lifebut a toxic work environment can lead to the deteriorating mental health of its employees. It is important to have a workplace that understands the criticality of mental health.
One in five Americans suffers from some mental health-related issue annually but only one out of three get the help they need.The numbers are staggering and call for immediate action. For employees to perform their best, companies need to invest resources and time into making mental health a priority.
Here are 10 effective ways organizations can take mental health in the workplace seriously.
Creating a Safe Space
Asafe space is essentially a place where you feel comfortable communicating your issues and admitting to mistakes. One of the key contributors to work-related stress and anxiety is not being able to communicate effectively. By communication, we mean letting your boss know of any troubles you are facing with work, the work environment, or some unrelated element affecting work. If you are constantly watching your back, scared of making a mistake,you will hardly be able to learn and grow.
The company’s culture should be such that encourages employees to share ideas and take accountability. When employees are considered a part of the team and are appreciated for being creative, they enjoy their work more.They will give it their best and might just come up with the next big idea to enhance operation.
There needs to be a margin for error. Employers need to be more tolerant of mistakes made by their resources. Shouting or using harsh language will only discourage them from taking accountability for the mistake, it will not stop the mistake from happening. Therefore, it is important to create a safe space.
Establishing a Work-Life Balance
The idea of not having a life outside work is romanticized to a concerning degree. People often seem proud of individuals that are working themselves to points of exhaustion and not making enough money from it. With the advent of social media, the idea is driven home more. You see people working longer, harder, and sharing their tales of how not having a life currently will pay off later in life.
Large organizations play a large role in perpetuating this narrative. Just ask yourselves, is it worth it? Is it worth having burnt-out and exhausted employees that cannot be half as productive as their true potential?
Encourage your employees to have a good work-life balance instead of idolizing the insane ‘always hustle’ mentality. Working remotely can be particularly tricky in this regard. With the lines of work and personal lives blurred, employees often find managing the two difficult. Check-in with your employees and facilitate them in any way you can.
It Is Okay to Say No
This is sound advice for employers and employees. Understand that “no” is a completely valid response when articulated in the right manner. It is not wise to expect individuals to take more responsibility than they can handle. This will only result in the person being overwhelmed and the task quality being compromised.
Be open to taking no as an answer. If there is a particular employeewho struggles with refusing work due to intimidation or some other reason, set the record straight. Let them know they do nothave to take tasks that they cannot manage with their current workload.
Taking on additional work on top of your existing work is the perfect recipe for anxiety. It leads to individuals feeling overwhelmed. An unmanageable workload not only causes you to lose motivation but directly impacts the quality of your work. If saying no is not an option, you can ask your employer to help you prioritize tasks.
Let them know what you already have on your plate and ask them what tasks you can push aside for the time being. This gives you a clearer idea of what you need to get to immediately and the tasks that can wait.
A proactive approach to prioritizing the mental health of your employees is by establishing wellness programs. There are two aspects of making an employee assistance program.
First, you need to include mental health in the health plan that you offer. This allows employees to see how conscious efforts arebeing made to not only recognize their mental health woes but also help fight them.
Having in-house counsellors or psychologists that your employees can approach and get help is also a great step to take in the right direction. The mental health plan you offer should ideally cover a wide range of mental health issues including addiction.
Furthermore, people may find it difficult to come forward with their mental health issues, especially in a professional work environment. It is important to reinforce your employee assistance program to help your resources. Being subtle and sensitive is important in this matter.
Inform individuals that they can utilize the services free of cost via company newsletters or through personalized emails. You can send a monthly newsletter that covers dealing with mental health issues and how to navigate them in the given environment.
Employees should be reminded that their information is confidential and protected by professionals. Plus, they can directly contact these in-house professionals via call or visit them personally at their convenience.
Challenging the Stigma
There is a huge stigma attached to mental health. People often find it difficult to come forward and talk about their issues for the fear of being treated differently. Employees may be concerned about losing their job especially if they are struggling with addiction-related issues.
One of the biggest reasons why mental health is neglected is that it doesn’t manifest any physical symptoms. Mental health concerns should be taken as seriously as a physical form of health concern would be.
The back-and-forth between working from and again working from the office after the pandemic is challenging. You may notice disruptive behavior in employees that are unable to cope with the change. Disruptivebehavior includes getting into verbal arguments and being unable to keep up their work pace.
To deal with this issue, discussit with the employees involved andtry to understand the situation better. You can provide them with options that include a temporary leave or a psych evaluation. If the matter is more serious and employees exhibit behavior of severe depression, immediately recommend them to a doctor and encourage seeking help.
The work environment becomes a lot better when the leadership is approachable. What exactly does having an approachable leadership mean? Well, during workoneis faced with a plethora of challenges. These may be concerned with the work management, client feedback, the quality of the work, or the people you work with.
To be able to tackle these, employees need the leadership to be easy to approach. If one is constantly afraid of their boss being too egoistic or unavailable to help them, the work quality will be compromised. It will also create a sense of anxiety and fear within the employees.
Furthermore, as leaders and supervisors, it is imperative to pay attention to whether any of your employees are exhibiting symptoms of mental health issues. These include isolation, disrupted eating or sleeping habits, poor work performance, etc. If you notice these symptoms, reach out for help.
Offer Acknowledgement and Appreciation Where Due
Make it a point to offer positive feedback when it is due. In many organizations, employees are critiqued for their mistakes but not appreciated or acknowledged when they get things right and perform well. This creates an unpleasant environmentand gives off the impression that good efforts do not amount to anything.
It’s important to tailor your management style according to the individual you are dealing with. For example, some of your employees may enjoy the day off or get a coupon to their favorite restaurant as a reward for excelling in a task. Others would feel acknowledged if they were trusted with additional responsibility. Therefore, it is important to understand what the individual would enjoy as encouragement.
Create Awareness through Training
Mental health issues ranging from depression to schizophrenia are more common than people realize. One way of making the work environment better for those, dealing with mental health concerns is to raise awareness about said concerns.
Conduct seminars and group activities dedicated to the cause of mental health. A great idea is calling known personalities to talk about their mental health journeys. This will encourage individuals to see mental health in a different light. They will understand how one can have fruitful conversations about mental health.
Take a Break toUnwind
For all the destruction the pandemic caused, it also helped put things in perspective. People seemed to have realized how important their health and well-being are.For the longest time, this pseudo-positive hustle culture was shoved down our throats by social media and other forms of digital media that left us feeling inadequate. Things have changed since the pandemic. People are now making conscious efforts to take care of their mental and physical health.
Companies can help the process. Encourage your employees to use their vacation, develop healthy hobbies outside work and prioritize their well-being. Motivate employees to take short breaks throughout the day as they can improve productivity. Engage in conversation with them and show genuine interest in their well-being.
Burnout is a reality for individuals that do not take a break. One way to raise awareness about signs of burnout is by sending out a newsletter that talks about workplace stress and the detrimental effects it can have.
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Research reveals that support from the community or peers can help mitigate the effects of stress. Such widespread support can only be garnered when people understand what mental health illnesses are, how it affects individuals, and how they can help those affected by them.
If you know someone on your team is struggling with their mental health, step in and offer support. This can be by helping with their work or just having a cup of coffee with them and asking how they feel.A good conversation can do wonders.
Bonus Tip: Take Care of Yourself
This is perhaps the most clichéd advice you will get in this regard. People usually eat out when they are at work and are too tired to work out when they get home. Eating right and working out can alleviate mood and keep stress at bay.
Companies can help this by providing healthy meal plans in the cafeteria and having an in-office gym that people can join after work.
Benefits of Nurturing Mental Health in the Workplace
Worsening mental health can have terrible results that range from reduced work efficiency to suicide. Here is how a being supportive of mental health concerns in theworkplace benefits the organization
- With improved employee satisfaction, you are more likely to retain talent.
- A positive work environment will help lower the sick leaves and days taken off
- You will see an increase in net productivity due to improved employee engagement
- The effects of a nurturing environment surpass just the employees. It helps the management relax as well
- Employees feel more confident in taking on responsibilities and challenges they previously were scared to get involved with
- Employees are more likely to achieve their full potential in a work environment that takes mental health seriously
Covid-19 has been eye-openingamong other things. The pandemic brought on us the loss of loved ones, financial uncertainty, and inflicted misery all over the world. It completely changed our idea of normal. Wewere forced to stay in our homes, limit social interaction, and completely change the course of our lives for several months. The pandemic has had detrimental effects on mental health.
As we look forward to transitioning to a hybrid working setup we must understand that going back to work is going to be difficult. There needs to be increased sensitivity towards mental health issues in the workspace.
The pandemic has taught us some valuable lessons, one of which is the importance of mental health. Use the strategies we mentioned to create a more accepting and positive work environment in your company.