It’s becoming increasingly clear that employers who want to experience growth must prioritize their employees’ mental health.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 300 million people experience depression, making it one of the leading causes of disability around the world. As workers experience unresolved depression, they’re estimated to encounter a 35 percent drop in productivity, which leads to billions of dollars in revenue loss.
As we start the new year, here are seven of the best ways to support your employees’ mental health:
- Offer Robust, Flexible Mental Health Care Options– Many employer-sponsored health care plans offer limited access to mental health care options. Plans that house provider directories are consistently out-of-date, or providers listed are unavailable for new clients. While employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be helpful, they typically allow a limited number of counseling sessions, which can be frustrating for employees requiring ongoing support. Even still, with the rise of remote work and flexible scheduling, often employees are seeking non-traditional ways to get the mental health support they need. Companies can aim to supplement limited mental health services by offering benefits that cover a wider range of treatment options and greater number of therapy sessions. Additional benefits may include self-care apps to encourage mindfulness, virtual therapy sessions and mental health coaching.
- Be Flexible with Working Hours and Breaks – Overwork can often cause stress that affects employee mental health. Flexible working hours can reduce stress for employees as they incorporate their personal and mental health needs into their working schedule. Employers should also aim to set boundaries by limiting out-of-hours work and encouraging employees not to access email outside of office hours, including on holidays. Managers and HR departments can also remind employees of unused vacation time and urge them to schedule autoreply “away” messages to alleviate the need to check emails while taking scheduled leave.
- Promote Physical Health, Including Healthy Eating and Exercise – The positive effects of good physical health on mental health can’t be disputed. In fact, studies show that exercise can provide stress relief and treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as anti-depressant medication. Results also prove a link between diet quality and mental health. Try hosting programs and initiatives in your workplace that promote positive physical health. These can include offering lunchtime fitness sessions, bringing in an expert to discuss healthy eating, hosting yoga classes or a weight loss program, and even starting an exercise club.
- Ensure Your Employees Feel Valued – Demonstrating your appreciation to employees is a simple, but effective way to support your employees’ mental health. Feeling unappreciated or under-valued can lead to anxiety, fear, and even depression. Provide consistent positive feedback to let employees know their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Even still, take time at least once a year to formally recognize your employees’ accomplishments professionally, and personally.
- Make Reasonable Accommodations as Needed – It’s important for employers to work together with employees who request reasonable accommodations related to mental health needs. If an employee asks to work from home on occasion or to take weekly time off to attend therapy sessions, the employer should consider these options, as long as they don’t hinder the employee’s ability to perform the overall job functions.
- Maintain Openness – Nearly one in five U.S. adults have a mental health condition, yet more than half of Americans say they’ve never discussed mental health at work. Employers must encourage conversations and maintain supportive spaces for employees to discuss mental health. This can be done more formally through methods like mental health campaigns or more informally through activities like one-on-one employee check-ins.
- Remain Alert – Employers aiming to foster positive mental health should keep an eye out for employees exhibiting signs of decline. This should not only include declines in work productivity, but in overall social engagement or personality shifts. If an employee appears to be struggling in any way, try setting up a private meeting in a non-threatening, comfortable environment. Be sure to ask open-ended questions and work together to identify meaningful solutions. While every employee will not want to open up about their mental health, they should at least know resources are available if needed.
How will your company plan to foster better employee mental health this year?