Awareness of mental health issues has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic. However, many individuals still conceal their internal struggles from friends, family, and especially their coworkers. Since workplaces are where most of our time and energy is spent, employers have a huge responsibility to encourage hesitant employees to seek help.
The extended isolation and uncertainty many of us experienced during the past 20-plus months have intensified struggles for those already dealing with mental health concerns. More than 40% of adults reported anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms during January 2021 – up 30% from two years ago. Those numbers indicate that nearly half of the U.S. population is struggling with mental illness.
People conceal mental health issues for a variety of reasons. The most common of those include:
- Fear: They’re afraid of what may arise once they begin seeing a medical professional.
- Denial: They ignore it thinking the issues will resolve on their own.
- Job Security: They’re worried their employer will react with punitive or dismissive actions rather than understanding and support.
- Cost: Treatment is too expensive, or they don’t know where to access affordable care.
- Lack of Awareness: They’re unaware they’re experiencing negative mental health symptoms.
Caring about the overall well-being of your employees not only demonstrates your integrity as a business owner but also benefits your bottom line. Research shows that nearly 86% of employees treated for depression reported increased productivity and improved work performance. To add additional perspective, the World Health Organization estimates depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
Here are a few recommendations to help employers successfully instill a positive mental health culture for their team:
Employees often aren’t aware when mental health benefits are available through their employer. And even when they are, individuals often need encouragement to take that first step. Whether extra coverage is included in their general health plan, or your office offers a confidential service that connects them to free/affordable therapists – send proactive reminders.
You can send monthly self-care tips that highlight benefits available to employees. Actively encouraging your team to get help and promoting the options you’ve made available normalizes a potentially taboo topic. Those actions also demonstrate that it’s alright to talk to someone.
Equip office leaders with knowledge and training to help them navigate sensitive conversations. Encourage them to always ask their direct reports about morale and overall well-being. Building trust takes time, but the ultimate goal is for employees to feel comfortable enough to ask for help.
Provide flexibility for employees to help manage and balance their time. Working long hours is often counterproductive. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance produces higher efficiency, productivity, and motivation because it minimizes burnout.
Employees also appreciate a sense of control over their schedules. Be understanding of everyone’s personal situation and attempt to accommodate those needs. Offer flextime, hybrid work from home models, or even the 4/10 work schedule. Allowing employees to take an occasional day or afternoon off to care for their mental health needs goes a long way, too.
Activities that Promote Self Care
People often don’t practice acts of self-care because they don’t have time or don’t know where to start. Offer guided meditation sessions, quarterly massage days, yoga classes, team outings, and anything else that encourages people to take the time to nurture their well-being. Helping your employees build those habits will significantly improve morale and camaraderie.
BBB proudly offers flexible work schedules, monthly health, and wellness reimbursements, and a flexible PTO program, etc. – the list goes on.