6 min read
How to Implement Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
By: Staff Aug 9, 2021 6:41:58 PM
Productivity has taken a hit for many businesses across the United States. Shifts in demand, turbulent government policies, and unpredictable supply shortages have made both day-to-day operations and long-term plans hard to manage for any company.
But your individual employees are also suffering from these uncertainties, which manifest as anxiety, signs of depression, stress, and more. Not only does this negatively impact your business as much as the other factors listed above, but these conditions can also harm your employees if left untreated. According to Kaiser Family Foundation research, the number of working adults facing anxiety and poor mental health is rising in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:
During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from 1 in 10 adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.
This unprecedented rise in anxiety, depressive disorder, and other mental health conditions has left many employers scrambling for the right resources and procedures to maintain productivity and employee health. In this article, we'll take a deeper look at the mental health implications of workplace stressors during COVID, five elements your company can introduce to help support your team, and the role that Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) play in emotional wellness in the workplace.
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS, COVID, AND WORK-FROM-HOME
Anxiety and poor mental health are on the rise for many employees across every industry. COVID-19, as well as the resulting economic and cultural turbulence, has put a mental strain on employees looking for stability. Even with workplaces that have enacted safer working protocols such as opportunities to work from home, employees then suffer from stress, isolation, uncertainty, and mental fatigue.
It's increasingly clear that the mental cost of COVID-19 is high, even though we don't know the full impact yet. But what's less clear is when individual employees on your team may be suffering from poor mental health. Without in-person interactions, managers and team leads have only work-related messages, meetings, and task completion rates to base their assessment on.
Not only are these metrics often insufficient, but your managers also don't know how to appropriately gauge drops in productivity or shifts in tone. Instead of focusing on assessment or waiting until a clear problem emerges, we recommend making company-wide changes that make mental health care more approachable.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS IN THE WORKPLACE
These five areas of focus can strengthen your company's approach to mental health and give your employees the support they need:
1. EXEMPLIFY TOP-DOWN LEADERSHIP AND COMPASSION
It's not enough to just have available resources (though we'll explore different options for resources later in the article). Instead, your leadership team needs to actively promote and normalize the use of mental health resources so employees become more comfortable with and aware of these services. Executives must make their commitment to their employees' emotional wellness clear. This can be done through:
- The improvement of available resources
- Discussing mental wellness and resources at meetings and in one-on-one conversations
- Actively informing employees of available resources and additions to programs
- Creating new mental health policies
- Making mental health policies and resources easily findable in company platforms
- Developing updated mental health policies that protect employees
2. MAKE MENTAL HEALTH SELF-ASSESSMENT TOOLS AVAILABLE TO ALL EMPLOYEES
Employees may not realize that they are suffering from anxiety and depressive side effects of stress. Even when they do notice anxiety or begin feeling overwhelmed, they may downplay it or ignore it. Alternatively, they may downplay the situation out of fear of losing their job or having other work-related consequences.
Give your team the resources they need to assess their mental health, learn about the effects and symptoms of poor mental health, and how they can seek help. All employees should be educated about your company's EAPs.
3. DEVELOPMENTAL HEALTH POLICIES
Your company may not have a mental health policy, or it may be significantly out of date or unaligned with the current terms of your team. Create robust and specific policies that protect your team and can clear-cut procedures for your human resources department. Your policy should include:
- Anti-discrimination policies
- Information about your company's processes or initiatives for destigmatizing mental health disorders
- Communication policies that guide announcements and internal discussions about mental health
Your policy should protect both your employees and your company. We recommend working with licensed specialists to create a strong, compliant policy that meets the needs of your company.
4. LET EMPLOYEES MAKE DECISIONS
More flexibility and independence can have a significant positive effect on your company's workplace culture and the mental wellbeing of your employees. Anxiety, uncertainty, and helplessness contribute to declining mental conditions. Offering options, flexible schedules, and opportunities for career growth can bolster your employees.
Flex work schedules, especially during work-from-home periods, allow employees to get work done while accommodating potential children's virtual learning and other home demands. Having departmental growth opportunities gives your workers more optimism about the future.
5. IMPROVE YOUR BENEFITS
Creating more robust paid resources is harder, especially if your business was negatively impacted by COVID-19 and shutdowns. However, investing in better health care plans and more mental health resources can help your current employees cope better with stress and anxiety.
An enhanced Employee Assistance Program, especially, can help address drug and alcohol abuse, addiction, and more. At Employee Recovery, we partner with organizations so we can work together and support employees through sobriety and recovery.
SUPPORT YOUR EMPLOYEES WITH MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS AND BEST PRACTICES
Mental health is a bigger priority than ever, and companies can address the stress of COVID-19, shifting work environments, and other anxieties with clear wellness resources and procedures. By creating a culture of acceptance and destigmatization that's lead by your organization's executives, you can support your employees, strengthen company culture, and invest in the long-term health of your company.
Contact Employee Recovery today to learn more about how EAPs can help your employees' wellbeing. We're here to help organizations navigate the new challenges of supporting employee health during virtual and remote work-from-home periods.
Click here to get more information on everything you need to know about mental health resources.
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