Since the pandemic started, employers have become perhaps more aware than ever before about the effects of employee mental health on their business.
It’s not a new concept to show employees they’re valued and appreciated. For example, employers often give corporate gifts for nurses’ week and other employee-related days of celebration. However, employers realize they have to go beyond thinking about their employees’ well-being one day out of the year.
Yes, special recognition is part of taking care of employees, but prioritizing mental health and well-being in the workplace will allow businesses to weather the Great Resignation and the continuing effects of the pandemic.
The following are some of the things every employer and business leader should know about mental and emotional health as we’re embarking on a new year.
Why It Matters?
A survey conducted by the Conference Board found that 59% of employees said stress and burnout were their top concerns for well-being in the workplace. Employees don’t want to and refuse to sacrifice their own well-being for their employer’s financial goals, and they shouldn’t have to.
Employees are increasingly demanding to work at companies where mental health is a priority, which employers can’t afford to overlook.
Prioritizing mental health is something that can help you get new employees, as it becomes part of your employer brand. It also helps with retention, but there’s more to it than just those elements.
First, mental health affects everyone constantly, whether positively or negatively. Just like you need a physically healthy workforce, you also need one that’s emotionally well. You can’t separate your employees from their mental health—it’s impossible, and it’s going to affect every area of their work even if they don’t realize it.
When employees deal with emotional or mental health issues, they can’t just leave them behind or push them aside.
When leaders take the forward-thinking perspective that mental health is a priority, since it can’t be decoupled from the employee and the work they do, it will lead to results. Employees who can take care of themselves mentally will be better performers in the workplace. Recognizing this is what’s going to help you grow and thrive, even in difficult times.
You also have to realize that, much like other illnesses, mental health can be contagious in the workplace. The emotional and behavioral patterns of employees affect everyone around them. We’re designed to be in tune with the emotional state of the people we’re surrounded by.
According to the World Health Organization, the costs of anxiety and depression and the lost revenue cost nearly $1 trillion. However, the WHO also found there is almost a 4X return on investment when you spend on mental health care. That means for every dollar you’re spending on helping your employees be mentally healthy, you could see a $4 return.
In a study from the summer of 2021 conducted by BetterUp, workers were asked how their performance at work suffers because of mental health issues. One in four respondents said their work was impacted weekly.
Our mental health also closely associates with physical health. For example, the National Alliance on Mental illness reports rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases are twice as high in adults who also have a serious mental health disorder.
With the importance impossible to ignore, what can you do to support employees’ mental and emotional health?
Consider Employee Assistance Programs
Employee assistance programs or EAPs are an employee benefits program that helps employees cope with and solve issues affecting their lives. The idea is that an employee addresses personal issues they may be facing before it impacts their work performance.
Research shows that EAPs can help with significantly lower levels of absenteeism, but these resources are chronically underused.
EAPs can integrate personalized coaching, and there are platforms and technology-based tools to implement them into your business relatively easily.
Understand The Impact And Watch For Signs Of A Problem
Sometimes, simply understanding mental health and its effects on your employees can go a long way to helping you be a better business leader. You can also learn to recognize red flags that might indicate an employee is experiencing emotional distress.
When you can spot problems early on before they become something bigger, there might be things you can do. For example, you could make it clear that you support the employee, and you might offer them flexibility in how they work until they can sort things out.
Communicate In A Way That Aims To Reduce Stigma
You want to make mental health and emotional well-being things that are talked about openly in the workplace when needed. For example, mention the mental health care benefits that are available to your employees on a regular basis.
Build your culture around emotional well-being, and have workshops or host speakers who discuss topics surrounding mental health.
Encourage Employees to Use Their Time Off
If your workplace is one where employees strive to succeed, that can be a good thing, of course, but it can also lead to burnout and a host of other mental health concerns.
While you want your employees to be dedicated and strive to achieve their best, you also want them to take time off to rest and recharge when they need it. Encourage your employees to use their vacation time. You might do this by limiting how much of it can roll over into the following year.
Finally, have plans for what you’ll do if someone needs to take time off for mental health purposes and what it will be like when they return. The more you can standardize and document some of the processes related to time off and mental well-being, the more comfortable employees will be accessing and utilizing them.
The best mental health program will not do any good for your employees or you if it’s not being used, so keep that in mind.