In the U.S. one in every five adults deals with mental health issues. Being surrounded by a lot of social stigma, mental health is often a subject that is vastly ignored or suppressed. While many organizations have started focussing on the well-being of their employees, what they offer mostly are packages that benefit the physical wellbeing. According to the reports of Kaiser Family Foundation 82% of companies, having more than 200 employees, offer health based programs like weight management and smoking cessation, without much emphasis on mental wellness in the workplace. The stigma around mental health is widespread and according to the Mental Health Foundation, 90% of people having mental health issues have revealed that this stigma affects them negatively.
Many employers are still hesitant about starting the mental health conversation in the workplace, and those willing to take the initiative are deterred by the reluctance on the part of the employees. It is true that employees are entitled to privacy regarding sensitive issues, but the organizations certainly have the responsibility of taking care of their psychological wellbeing. This is because if the mental health issues of employees are left unaddressed, it might negatively impact the individual’s as well as the team’s performance. Starting the conversation about mental health issues in the workplace and breaking the stigma associated with it is crucial and organizations can achieve this through various tools and techniques to make their workforce healthier, more productive and more engaged.
- Educate Your Employees
Although not prominent, the mental health issues are prevalent and many employees working in your organization are probably hesitant about acknowledging their problem. Also, there are different types of mental health problems and the employees are often not sure if what they are experiencing is a temporary stress or a chronic anxiety disorder. It’s important to educate them so they can identify the signs and symptoms and deal with them in a better way. Organizing sessions with a qualified mental health professional could be a great initiative. Encourage open discussions addressing mental health in the workplace where employees can ask questions regarding their issues. Team activities to practice how to interact with someone having psychological issues or how to use coping mechanisms while going through a hard time emotionally, can also help.
- Make the Workplace Stress-Free
The marketplace today is quite competitive and no wonder employees are constantly being pushed to work harder and better. This might be stressful for some and the management needs to find a way in which the company aspirations do not damage the mental health of the employees. Creating a stress-free work environment and helping employees to have a good work-life balance are very important. According to the surveys, many employees experience burnout because they do not take sufficient break during their work-day. Encourage employees to relax, and clarify which tasks have strict deadlines and which ones can be delayed in case they are overburdened. Make the office a fun place where people can interact freely, do activities to relieve stress, participate in healthy competitions and improve their overall wellness.
- Provide Information and Resources
Many employees facing some kind of mental health crisis usually do not know how or where they can find support. This feeling of helplessness makes things even worse. When you start providing psychological support to the employees dealing with mental health issues, make sure they know what options they have in the company and where they can find support. Employees are often hesitant in asking their HR mangers about the treatment options and so it’s important the management proactively informs them about the support available. For managing employees with mental health issues, it’s also a good idea to provide information about the local support groups. When employees have resources that they can use in times of a mental health crisis, they are more likely to cope with their problem in a better way.
- Break the Stigma
People experiencing mental health issues need more encouragement and acceptance. However, owing to the social stigma, what they experience more is isolation and loneliness, thinking that nobody would understand their problem and fearing mental health discrimination at work. Employers can play a vital role in breaking the stigma associated with mental health so people can open up about their condition. Raising mental health awareness in the workplace and starting discussions on mental health issues is imperative to make people view this problem in a positive way. It’s the organization’s responsibility to highlight mental illness as a normal human condition just like any other physical ailments. Developing a culture of acceptance is essential to break the stigma.
Mental health is still a taboo for many in the society, for which a huge number of people suffer. However, organizations do have the potential to make a difference by breaking the stigma around it. Also, there is a strong link between mental health and productivity in the workplace. Investing in the overall wellbeing of employees, physical and mental, is always a great decision which can significantly boost organizational performance, in a cost effective manner.
What steps is your company taking for addressing and supporting mental health in the workplace?