The past year presented stress and strife for so many, however, the start of 2021 is a perfect opportunity for employers to renew their commitment to their employees’ mental health. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual 2020 Stress in America™ report, the United States is currently experiencing a mental health crisis that could yield repercussions for years to come. For people with disabilities, who may already have stress on their bodies, prioritizing mental health becomes even more important. Employers can help ease this stress by ensuring that the workplace does not exacerbate the tension that employees may be experiencing.
In addition to making your employees aware of available mental health resources and encouraging them to use them, here are five ways employers can support the mental health in the workplace this year:
- Encourage your employees to take breaks. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, studies have shown that taking breaks actually improves productivity. Giving employees time away from their desks allows them to come back re-energized for their tasks and can prevent job burnout. This can also create a more inclusive workplace for employees with disabilities, whose accommodations often require ample breaks.
- Consider adopting a Workplace Wellness Program. An employer-led series of initiatives that promote wellness, Workplace Wellness Programs can show your employees that you are an employer dedicated to mental health. From reimbursing paramedical services to offering free healthy food and yoga/exercise classes, there are many forms that Workplace Wellness Programs can take. These programs can also improve employee morale, leading to increased retention rates.
- Offer flex schedule options. Flexible work schedule arrangements, alternatives to traditional 9 to 5 work weeks, allow employees to modify their arrival and departure times to fit the needs of their disability accommodation and other aspects of their life. Offering flex hours can ease the stress employees may experience trying to fit all the aspects of their morning or evening routine into the hours before or after work.
- Model self-care strategies. Employees often follow the lead of their employers. Managers modeling self-care, a compilation of self-guided strategies to minimize stress and promote healthy living, shows employees that they prioritize their own mental and overall health, giving space for them to follow suit. It is not, as some may believe, a reflection of over-indulgence or being selfish.
- Have check-ins with your employees. According to a 2020 study done by the Harvard Business Review in collaboration with Qualtrics and SAP, nearly 40% of global employees said that nobody at their company asked if they were doing OK. These respondents were 38% more likely to say that their mental health declined in 2020. Giving space for your employees to talk about what is happening in their life can go a long way in building trust, harmonious relationships, and a low-stress environment.
What new practices will you implement this year to support your employees’ mental health?