Mental health: we don’t always talk about it, but it’s important for everyone. Mental illness and stress is a prevalent reality that can’t be ignored; but when it’s addressed in the workplace, you can help your employees succeed and stay healthy.
Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults over 18 reported some kind of mental illnesses in 2016, and 71% reported at least one symptom of stress. Of those 1 in 5, half go untreated. They can have physical symptoms, such as heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and diseases that affect muscles, bones, and joints.
When treated, 80% of employees improve work efficacy and satisfaction. Mental illnesses are just like other illnesses and should be treated as such. Your employees’ health is good for business—lower disability costs and absenteeism, and increased productivity.
How to get started
If you don’t already address mental health in the workplace, start by looking at the company culture and what resources are there for stress management. Do people talk about stress or their mental well being with each other? If not, how can you start those conversations? What are your health benefits, and what is mental health coverage? Make that information easily available. Take an anonymous survey of stress and mental health in the workplace to identify key issues.
Individual mental health needs are different, so it’s important to have policies that address the breadth of the problem. This includes work-life balance, stress reduction, training to identify at-risk employees, and easy to access support.
The workplace is a great place to improve mental health, as there is a structure in place, and we spend a lot of time at work. Here are some ideas that other companies use to improve mental well being.
- Your employee health plan must cover mental health services. Those services should be easy to access and inexpensive.
- Train managers to spot common issues such as depression and offer tangible support, like informational pamphlets and connection to mental health services. Comprehensive training should also include mental health competency, harassment solutions, and support for minorities.
- Address work-life balance. What is the policy for after-work emails? Do you have paid time off for mental health days?
- Bring stress management to the workplace with workshops. Have a designated area in the office that is a quiet place to recharge, meditate, or other stress-relieving activities.
- Promote awareness with special informational days, or educational materials. Connect with mental health and well being organizations in your community and invite them to the table or give a presentation.
- Give mental health assessment tools to your employees.
- Bring in free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression and other common issues. Also consider lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
- Have a clear and thorough mental health policy, and make sure that all of the information is easy to access.
Mental health is simply good for business. It affects our performance, productivity, communication, engagement at work, and daily functioning. It’s time to treat mental health like any other illness or condition and to become wellness champions at your workplace.