Tips to Support Mental Health in the Workplace
As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, we want to shine a spotlight on mental illness but specifically mental illness in the workplace and what employers can do to help educate their employees on mental illness, assist those that may be struggling with their mental health, and create a workplace that supports mental health and well-being.
1. Understand that mental illness is a disability.
It can be difficult for people to understand that mental illness is a disability because it’s not like a physical injury that can be seen. If an employee breaks their arm then you can see the injury, how is causes them pain, and how it affects their work. They might take a little longer to get things done or require some help. The same can be said of an employee struggling with a mental illness but it is less obvious because you can’t necessarily see them physically struggling. The pain and struggle that come with mental illness is just as real and can be just as debilitating. When an employee is struggling with their mental health, offering support and assistance can make a big difference.
2. Educate employees about mental illness and the importance of mental health.
Mental illness does not carry as much of a stigma as it used to but there is still a long way to go. In the workplace it is very common for absences due to mental health reasons to have a negative association. In a survey taken by Mental Health America, 75% of employees said they are afraid of being punished for taking a mental health day. Employers can help end this stigma in the workplace by educating themselves and their employees about mental illness. There are several resources available to help employers educate their staff on mental illness like these from Mental Health America and Nami. It can also help to develop a mental health policy for the work place to foster more understanding for those struggling with mental illness. If you are wondering what that looks like, Influence & Co. wrote a step by step article about how they re-wrote their company Mental Health Policy.
3. Encourage work-life balance.
You want your employees to be committed to your company of course but that is just one part of their lives. Take an interest in your employees’ responsibilities and passions outside of work and offer assistance if you can. Also, offering employees flexible work hours, more time off, and the ability to work from home have been shown to increase employee productivity because it benefits their overall well-being. Say an employee needs to schedule a doctors appointment in the middle of the day or pick up their kids from school, they will feel a lot less anxious knowing they don’t have to struggle to fit those responsibilities in around their work schedule. Personally, I feel very grateful to work for a company that gives me the ability to work from home when I need to and has an unlimited vacation policy because they understand the importance of a work-life balance.
4. Respect individual work styles.
Just like people have different learning styles they also have different working styles. Some employees may enjoy office chatter and more hands-on direction while others may be more productive when it is quiet and they are left to their own devices. These are both effective approaches to getting one’s work done but they are very different. In a Forbes article, they suggest you “Treat People Fair” meaning “treating people like they want and deserve, rather than the same.” When all employees are treated the same or employers try to impose their views on how they like things to be done, productivity often suffers. Many employees who are forced to work in a way that is counter-intuitive to them may struggle to get work done and/or feel excluded which can negatively affect their mental health and productivity. Being more considerate of your employees work style and encouraging your staff to do the same can make for a more inclusive workplace where your employees and your business thrive.
5. Make mental health resources readily available.
Many people suffering from mental illness aren’t sure where to turn or how to ask for help. Making resources available to them can make a big difference. Offering metal health coverage as part of their benefits or employer assisted programs is a great way to place importance on mental health. Additionally, Mental Health at Work can help you find resources tailored to help your business be more supportive of mental health.
Overall, care. Showing your employees that you care about their work, their ideas, and their well-being can make a huge impact on them and your business.