One of the lingering effects of the pandemic is increased anxiety, depression, and burnout. In addition, many employees struggle to navigate returning to the office and the resulting and continued disruption of remote work, fewer options for childcare, commuting to work, and everyday stressors. As we navigate normalcy again, we must be more attentive to employee mental health and well-being in the workplace.
What Can We Do?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” A decline in work performance, changes in mood, trouble concentrating and thinking, loss of interest in activities, and unusual behavior may show up in the workplace.
Employers who offer an employee assistance program (EAP) can highlight these services to ensure that employees are aware. EAP services are free and confidential for employees and their families. An EAP can be a great source of help to employees struggling with stress that may be impacting their work and home life.
Other employee resources may include seminars or webinars on reducing and managing stress. In addition, there are a variety of online resources that employees can access, giving them the sense of privacy, they may be seeking.
Employer health plans often provide mental and behavioral health services. Communicating these services is also essential so that employees understand all the options for assistance. Regular and multiple methods of communication are required to keep employees informed. Refrain from relying solely on email messages as they can go unnoticed, unread, or lost. If your company or organization has a communication strategy team, work with them to ensure that the proper language and frequency of these messages impact your employees best.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that aim to promote a safe space and community amongst each other. The goal of these groups is to provide help and support in personal and professional development. Allies may also be invited to join and support colleagues as well. ERGs can create an inclusive, open forum for employees to feel comfortable discussing their challenges and needs. These forums can be hosted online or offline. In addition, ERGs could be an opportunity for employees to leverage mental health by discussing the appropriate resources to assist in wellness. ERGs usually consist of individuals with common interests, demographics, or backgrounds.
Offering flexibility could look like adjusting work schedules, compressed work weeks, or remote or hybrid work. An employer that allows flexibility can immensely help an employee overcome temporary obstacles and encourage mental health and well-being in the workplace. Workplace flexibility emphasizes the ability to adapt to change, which is greatly needed to improve employee wellness. Flexibility in the workplace can highlight when, where, and how to work.
Modify Procedures and Policies
Updating workplace procedures and policies is also an effective way to assist with employee mental health and wellness. Doing so clarifies rules or norms surrounding paid time off (PTO), work hours, and communications that could be outdated. For example, with the drastic changes we all faced during the pandemic, policies regarding office environments could be outdated if employees remain remote. It is best practice to review all procedures and policies yearly to consider improvements.
As referenced above, here are some other ways that employers can assist in encouraging mental health and well-being in the workplace:
1. Encourage the use of paid time off days to balance stress
2. Include mental and behavioral health coverage as part of a health care plan
3. Offer workshops to increase awareness about mental health
4. Promote and communicate where to go and whom to ask for mental health support
5. Develop a health and wellness program and include mental health information
6. Offer managerial training to recognize common symptoms of mental health behavior that may be affecting employee performance
If an employee asks for help with high stress or a related crisis, please refer them immediately to an array of qualified mental health assistance. Resist the human urge to diagnose or treat. Such actions are reserved for trained, experienced, and licensed professionals. Some reputable contacts to reach out to:
2. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988.Available 24 hours a day
3. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:800-273-8255
4. The National Domestic Violence Hotline:800-799-SAFE (7233)
5. The Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to speak to a counselor
6. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 800-662-HELP (4357)
7. The Veteran’s Crisis Line: 800-273-8255 or text 838255
There are many more resources to assist with creating good mental health and wellness in the workplace. Some include mental health mobile apps, which are free to download. Access to mental health resources is critical in creating an environment that embraces mental health and well-being. When an organization supports mental health and wellness, employees will likely feel supported and seek the help they need. The results can contribute to healthier employees and increased work performance and retention.