Something that has changed for the better during the pandemic is the embracement of conversations around mental health in the workplace. It has encouraged employers to provide mental health resources like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and also include mental health services under their employer-sponsored health insurance plan.
Here’s what every company should know about mental health.
Mental health in the workplace means the psychological, emotional, and social wellness of employees. It means that the employee’s mind is free from negative thoughts, and she has the strength to deal with the stresses of work, and how they act in the workplace.
While the definition of employee wellbeing in the workplace might seem very short, it has much more depth to it. The main question is: what is the cost of an employee who does not have the optimum level of mental well-being?
This question helps understand the importance of an employee’s mental well-being and the answer is as follows:
- Depression is a mental condition that impacts the cognitive performance of the person by as much as 20%. This means that a mentally unwell employee’s job performance declines.
- The number of people leaving their jobs because of mental health has increased considerably after the pandemic. 50% of millennials reported mental health reasons for leaving their job in 2019. This percentage has increased to 68% in 2021. The number was even higher for Gen Z workers and went up from 75% in 2019 to 81% in 2021 (Source).
- Reports of one or more symptoms of mental health conditions have increased from 59% in 2019 to 76% in 2021 (Source).
- Employees suffering from mental health issues have poor relations with their colleagues which negatively impacts the organizational culture.
Also, a 2021 study conducted by HBR showed that executive employees are more likely to report mental health issues than other employees owing to the higher level of responsibility, therefore, work stress.
These statistics show that employee wellbeing is an increasingly important consideration in the workplace, therefore, adding further responsibility to the HR department.
Employees are talking more and more about mental health, thus shattering the stigma that had previously impacted the willingness to seek mental health help. This reflects in their increasing demands for mental health resources and support provided by the organization.
The seven pillars that boost employee mental health and meet their needs for mental well-being include a supportive organizational culture, mental health coverage from the employer, resources for mental wellbeing, and empathetic leadership amongst others.
According to research mental health is becoming more associated with Diversity, Equality, and Inclusivity (DEI). While 41% believed that mental health is a DEI issue in 2019, the number increased to 54% in 2021. These statistics also show the increasing importance of an inclusive culture which is one of the pillars of employee mental wellbeing.
A culture where people of different races, communities, gender identifications, and thoughts are appreciated and made to feel included and valued in the workplace is an important component for improving employee mental well-being.
Organizational investment in mental health training and including mental health help like therapy and psychiatric help comes under the umbrella of mental health coverage.
The inclusion of mental health coverage in the health plans reflects the priorities of the organization. Thus, mental health workshops as well as mental health help coverage is an essential tool that executives can use to boost the organizational culture and promote discussion of mental health in the workplace.
Resources for mental well-being include EAP programs, time off from work for self-regulation, and even off for therapy appointments.
EAP is a workplace program including interventions to help with personal problems. There is a great chance that a personal life event like the loss of a loved one, or a sense of failure might result in mental health issues. Therefore, the blame and the solution should not only be applied to workplace situations.
EAP services might include a wide array of services like legal assistance, therapy, retreats, and paid holidays to improve the mental health of employee and their family members.
At times confusing and unfavorable workplace policies can also impact the mental well-being of the employee. For example, unpaid maternity leaves, or unpaid sick leaves can also impact the morale of the employees and their mental well-being.
Policies that are made for the employees while keeping in consideration the benefit of the organization are the best and optimal solutions.
Leaders are often too busy to make time for noticing their employees. They meet with the employees for work-related discussions and even though they might not intend to, they exuberate a distanced aura which might make employees hesitate to come to them for help.
Leaders should be trained to identify concerning signs amongst their teams. Any declines in performance should also be noted and discussed with the employee in an empathetic and non-confrontational manner.
Leaders who show genuine concern for their team members might also see the employees coming up to them on their own when they feel burnout, potential bullying in the workplace, or issues in their personal life.
Innovation and openness to new ideas in the workplace contribute to positive mental well-being amongst employees. This is often measured in terms of employee engagement, but if the employee is engaged in the work and fully dedicated and passionate about something, their mental well-being is obvious to get a boost.
Offering learning and development opportunities in the workplace is also a pillar that helps employees to feel confident in themselves and have a mental well-being boost.
When they see that their personal goals will be met while working in the organization, they enjoy the work more and work harder without feeling overburdened.
However, this certainly does not mean that a passionate person cannot feel burned out. Leaders should assess the capability the person has and the workload they can take and assign tasks accordingly.
HR is at the helm of dealing with employee-related concerns. Therefore, HR has a huge role when it comes to employee mental well-being in the workplace. First and foremost, implementing a culture in which bullying, harassment, and discrimination are not tolerated sets the basis.
The second step should be designing policies that are favorable to the employees which again reinforces the organizational culture and the openness towards different employee needs.
The third step would be to invest in mental well-being resources and get mental health coverage as a part of the EAP or the health benefits for the employees.
Other factors like a culture of innovation, learning, and development, and empathetic leadership are also adding to the organizational culture proving that it is the basis of mental wellness for the employees.
Mental well-being is a topic that is now being discussed in the workplace more than ever before. This is also because the pandemic and the global recession have caused many people to prioritize their mental well-being.
Employers are therefore expected to raise the bar and offer mental health plans and benefits as mental well-being is becoming more and more important to people.