On a bad day, work isn’t usually the first place you would choose to go when you feel you’re having mental health challenges. However, if employers address mental health appropriately, the workplace might be a great option in building you up and combating it.
With 1 in 6 workers dealing with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or stress, organizations must support employees with more than just a pat on the back.
So, how can companies support employees dealing with mental health challenges?
Some employers use an EAP (employee assistance program). Companies implement these initiatives to bring attention to mental health and open dialogue around it. One example is visual affirmations in common areas or consistently sending out mental health email newsletters. In addition, employees might be offered direct access to mental health professionals or sent invites to educational workshops on mental health.
Even though you might provide your team with resources, it doesn’t cover everything leaders need to understand regarding mental health, especially in the workplace. Managers and leaders are the front line and need to recognize the signs of anxiety or depression among their employees. Unless you require your managers to have some educational background in mental health, employers are responsible for providing guidance on when to intervene or not if a mental health situation is detected. Start by asking yourself if those in leadership positions would know what to do if they saw signs of emotional distress and be the type of manager who promotes an open line of communication with their employees.
….and speaking of communication…
The shift to remote work following the pandemic makes communication more important than ever. Your employees should view you as someone open to conversations regarding mental health, both inside and outside the workplace. People often learn by example, so it’s ok to be transparent about your own challenges when appropriate. Simply saying, “today is a stressful day for me,” can go a long way in opening minds. Being an honest leader can improve camaraderie and team morale. Employees might not always want to share what they are feeling, but at least they know they can, and that is what’s important.
When things happen that impact your employees, be flexible with making changes. For example, following the pandemic, organizations should’ve taken a closer look at policies involving flexible schedules, communication processes, medical benefits and leave offered, and PTO. With any policy change, consider how the modifications support the mental health initiative you want for your team. Imagine if you were a company that wasn’t able to adjust to a remote workforce, whether you didn’t have the technology resources to do it or weren’t able to put together an SOP to support it. Whatever the case, the mental health of your employees would’ve been at risk.
Encourage Employees to Speak Up
Give your team a safe space to go when they enter work. Check-in with your employees intentionally and allow them to speak openly about what they’re going through when it makes sense. Go beyond the coined, sometimes monotonous, phrase “how are you doing” and dig deeper. Ask employees specific questions based on their individual circumstances and let them talk. You might not always know what to say in response, but as long as you’re really listening and showing compassion, that’s the best you can do.