4 ways to foster employees' mental health in the workplace

Supporting mental health in the workplace continues to gain traction as proponents become more vocal, especially millennial workers. While there’s been greater awareness when it comes to employer responsibility to address the mental well-being of their employees, more needs to be done. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18 percent of American adults suffer from some form of mental illness. Additionally, mental health issues among working adults have cost employers more than $500 billion dollars in lost productivity annually due to absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover.

Economic issues aside, mental health is a serious problem that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life. Employers not only have responsibility to foster a psychologically safe and supportive culture, they should also think about how the benefits they offer can be inclusive and designed to help employees live better lives. What might seem like a great perk for a 26-year-old white man may not resonate with a 44-year-old woman of color with children. By thinking broadly about your mental health benefit offerings, you can better provide value and meet the needs of your employees.

Empower employees with the right tools

Designing your benefits strategy to attract and retain a broad segment of the population is not a new concept, but it is more important than before. When designing benefits programs, it’s important to factor in the needs of remote and international team members. Employees want to know they’ll be supported both at the workplace and in their personal lives.

However, sometimes there can be a disconnect with what employers offer and what employees want. Keeping in mind shifting expectations and needs among generations without stereotyping is vital to ensuring their needs are met. We’ve found flexibility and healthy workplace cultures tend to resonate more than ping pong tables. Employees generally know what they need better than any external source can, so providing flexible spending options allows them to champion their own health and well-being.

Take temperature checks and survey employees annually to determine if the benefits they offer are of value to their employees and evaluate offerings based on the responses. Unused benefits are costly expenses that take away opportunities to offer what employees truly need.

Put care at their fingertips

Seeking treatment can often be a hassle and there are often many hoops employees have to jump through to receive the level of care desired. Offering a virtual care solution such as health and mental health concierge services that provide users with a seamless way to manage their health can help employers proactively seek mental health treatment.

Users easily have access to health professionals via chat, instantly directing them to the right health resources for their needs – all via a mobile device. Virtual care gives employees access to nurses, doctors and specialists for consultations, diagnosis and treatment plans. By easing the barrier, employees are more likely to seek the care that they need.

Provide opportunities for employees to reduce stress

Regardless of the industry, many people work in competitive environments and are under constant stress and pressures as they ward off competition in rapidly changing environment. Stress is a natural part of life and on occasion, can even be good for us. However, constant stress can lead to problems and can make mental health worse, so supporting a healthy balanced lifestyle is vital.

While many companies offer traditional benefits that include health coverage, adding additional perks such as mental health days, or wellness workshops can go a long way in cultivating a culture that supports the mental well-being of employees. Initiatives such as mindfulness programs, on-site yoga classes, access to on-site, walk-in mental health professional and offering subscriptions to meditation apps like Headspace can all be used to support a healthier lifestyle among employees.

Encouraging employees to take technology breaks can also alleviate stress. It may be tough to unplug, but excessive exposure to technology can negatively affect anxiety levels. Managers should instill a culture where people feel empowered to leave their desks for 30 minutes to take regular walks in order to de-stress. Providing meditation rooms for employees can help combat stress as experts agree that it’s an effective antidote to the “fight or flight” response experienced during times of high stress.

Communicate benefits effectively

Many companies offer a wide variety of employee health benefits to assist in preventing burnout and mental health problems, but employees aren’t always aware of what’s at their disposal. HR teams must ensure they’re consistently using the right medium to communicate these benefits whether it be company town halls, company-wide emails or regular Slack reminders of the benefits available.

In addition to company-wide communications, organizations should also use a top-down approach to ensure everyone within the organization is aware of the offerings. Using a C-level executive to spread the message demonstrates that the company is serious about mental health. This is the only way to drive the systemic change that leads to truly healthy cultures.

Managers also have an important role to play ensuring their direct reports get the message. Not only are they responsible for effectively communicating benefits and funneling down corporate messages, but they also have an important role to play emphasizing the importance of prioritizing mental well-being.

Posted 9:00 AM

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