4 Ways to Support Mental Health in the Workplace

🕑 5 minutes read | Apr 07 2022 | By Becky Gendron

If the brain is our command center from which all productivity, innovation, communication, and ability derives, don’t we want it to be operating at full capacity? Stress and anxiety greatly affect this command center, impacting performance, retention, productivity and job satisfaction.  In fact, mental health concerns are a sharply increasing cause of attrition with 50% of respondents leaving roles for reasons of mental health, compared to 34% just two years ago.

Poor mental health among employees costs employers in many ways, including productivity losses. Stress and anxiety are often ignored, untreated, and lead to presenteeism, the term used to describe an employee that shows up to work but shouldn’t due to a physical or mental condition. Presenteeism accounts for a staggering 81% of lost productivity.

The good news is that employers have a lot of power and tools at their disposal to improve the mental well-being of their employees. Mental health awareness at work and support from employers can reduce mental health symptoms and improve productivity, retention, and job satisfaction.

Mental health programs have moved from a nice-to-have to an absolute necessity in the workplace, made more imperative with the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations can improve employee well-being through awareness programs, mental health training, reducing unnecessary stressors, and offering robust solutions that improve physical, emotional, and mental health. Learn about these helpful support tools for mental health in the workplace.

1. Create Awareness and an Open Dialogue About Mental Health

Although topics of stress, anxiety, and overall well-being have become more commonplace today than ever before, the stigma associated with mental health still exists. To further complicate this already-complex issue, many people don’t even know they’re struggling with mental health symptoms. Awareness and education are key here to create an open dialogue that builds connection and empowers everyone to understand the topic and eliminate the stigma.

It is not uncommon for employees to discuss mental health concerns at work. Two-thirds of respondents in a recent survey indicated that they have talked about their mental health with a coworker, and about half found that interaction to be positive. Nearly, 86% of people say they want a corporate culture that embraces an open mental health dialogue. Not only is this open dialogue helpful for mental well-being, but it also builds a positive workplace culture that nurtures inclusivity.

2. Provide Mental Health Training, Assessments, and Support

It’s important to provide the training and tools to recognize and better understand that we may not be operating at an optimal level due to mental health concerns. The ability to start with a baseline assessment that measures mental well-being identifies red flags, and then offers support and training is the basic framework for a mental health program.

Tools like the Total Brain platform can ease the burden on employers to provide the right kind of support to their staff and provide high-quality mental health assistance and tools. Total Brain offers mental health monitoring and support through a modern app on mobile and the web. They monitor twelve brain capacities to define mental health and screen for concerning symptoms. Based on the assessments, training and techniques are offered to combat concerns such as breathing, brain exercises, neuroscience-based music therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

The employer also gets access to the Total Brain corporate dashboard, which has aggregate level information on the assessments and completed training exercises. This kind of information gives employers better information about their workforce.

Also, it is important to provide training to leaders to equip them with the skills they need to recognize signs of stress and anxiety in their teams and give them the tools to reduce stressors and offer support.

3. Create a Culture of Psychological Safety

Building an environment of psychological safety is key for mental well-being in the workplace but also to building an inclusive culture that supports employees in reducing unnecessary stressors and anxiety at work. There is an abundance of tools and practices at an employer’s disposal to shift the culture to a more sustainable and supportive one. These ideas can be implemented to create psychological safety, offer support, and reduce stress and anxiety for your workforce:

  • Offer flexibility in work hours, work location, and paid time off
  • Regularly assess workload to prioritize tasks and rebalance to reduce burnout
  • Provide adequate resources to get the job done such as upskilling, reskilling, staffing, and tools
  • Celebrate accomplishments and make time for fun activities
  • Check in regularly and exercise empathy and authenticity by asking questions like “How are you?” and “What do you need help with?”
  • Communicate effectively, especially with remote workers
  • Model healthy boundaries and work/life balance by taking paid time off and disconnecting after hours to reduce burnout

These practices can reduce stress, improve mental well-being, and all of the benefits that come from a mentally healthy workforce along with shifting the culture to one that is inclusive, supportive, and drives connection.

4. Build Robust Mental Health Programs

Well-built mental wellness programs come with a multitude of benefits including reduced health care costs and improved productivity. Companies can implement effective, comprehensive mental health programs through a variety of tasks meant to raise awareness, cultivate connection, eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness, and provide support to overcome stress, anxiety, and other concerning mental health symptoms.

Some of these ideas are free while others will require an investment in time and money. Choose as many of these options as possible and create a short and long-term plan to build a robust mental health program customized to address the support tools needed most by your employees.

  • Use measurement and monitoring tools like Total Brain to assess and regularly monitor the well-being of staff
  • Offer professional screenings for depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns by a licensed mental health professional
  • Provide resources to find mental health professionals, especially those covered by your health insurance coverage
  • Offer discounts or free mental health coverage for therapy, coaching, and medication
  • Offer discounts to fitness centers, fitness programs, health-oriented apps, and yoga studios
  • Train managers, and any interested employees, to recognize signs of stress and encourage open dialogue about the topic
  • Create and promote employee resource groups that encourage an open dialogue about mental health and ways to support peers (an environment of psychological safety is key so employees can participate in decisions that affect job stress)
  • Host seminars and workshops that address stress, anxiety, and techniques to reduce them
  • Create spaces to relax, such as meditation, resting, and stretching zones
  • Encourage leaders to discuss work/life balance, burnout, workload, and mental health with their teams
  • Consider building employee assistance programs that address common issues among employees such as parenting, retirement planning, and tuition reimbursement

Supported Employees Perform and Connect

It’s important to prioritize the physical and mental health of employees, not only because we want what is best for them, but also because it can improve individual performance, strengthen productivity, and cultivate a culture of inclusivity and support. A healthy employee is more likely to be satisfied with their job, be resilient in the face of challenges, connect with colleagues, be an effective leader, and reach their goals.  Companies have many tools at their disposal to support their employees to create a workplace that speaks openly about well-being and provides the needed resources to live a healthy and happy life.

To learn more about supporting your team’s mental health, listen to the podcast Bring Out the Talent: Using Digital Neuroscience to Address Mental Health in the Workplace

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