It may be a new year, yet most of us are still facing the same challenges, stress and subsequent burnout that started in 2020. The pandemic has exacerbated the need for health awareness and prevention, especially in the area of mental health.
Due to challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are experiencing anxiety, depression symptoms and chronic stress, and the demand for mental health services is ever increasing.
In the workplace, 78% of employees report that improving their health and wellbeing is a high priority, while also reporting that they wish their employers would offer more health and wellbeing services.
Many employers are looking for solutions to aid their employees. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every dollar invested in mental healthcare for employees has a four dollar return in regained productivity and reduced future health costs.
What can employers do to address mental health in the workplace? Here are 10 tips that you can implement today.
1. Make your wellness strategy part of your business strategy.
The pandemic has changed the modern workplace, and at the same time, highlighted the need for a healthy workforce with access to mental health resources. The health status of employees directly influences work productivity, attendance and overall performance.
2. Give the opportunity for connection
Break down the stigma of mental health by having open and honest conversations.
- Ask ‘how are you’ and actively listen to the response. Relate to employees with an empathetic ear and share your own struggles.
Have an open-door policy. Employees are also more likely to discuss their mental health and wellbeing with their direct managers or supervisors, and not go to HR.
3. Accessibility is important
No employee wants to dig through open-enrollment paperwork to find what services are covered.
Post insurance information in common places – both virtual and brick & mortar when applicable.
Post mental health services - your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), behavioral services – in every department, internal intranet and shared sites, not just in Human Resources. Include the website, phone number, and company password (if necessary).
Offer free access for employees to participate in meditation and yoga classes (meditative movement like yoga and tai chi have been shown to relieve symptoms of anxiety).
Consider providing access to therapy services or a subscription to an app, like Talkspace.
4. Encourage use of the services available
Make preventive care and chronic condition management a priority. Market research is showing that many individuals have put off their preventive care in 2020, which could lead to a new health crisis. Encourage employees to schedule their physicals and checkups.
Many EAP and behavioral health service providers offer virtual learning sessions or a video series. Part of breaking down the stigma of mental health is to have frequent touchpoints. Webinars led by mental health specialists can provide education on what signs or symptoms employees should look for in a mental health emergency and can also provide strategies to boost resilience and combat symptoms of chronic stress, burnout or depression or anxiety.
5. Address mental health as the center of whole-person well-being
A wellness program centered on whole-person well-being, utilizing the eight dimensions of wellness (physical, intellectual, emotional, social, vocational, financial, environmental and spiritual) aids in building resilience, meets all employees where they are and gives them the ability to thrive.
6. Help employees manage their time
Set only certain ‘online’ hours for meetings and collaboration. You could also give employees a break from zoom fatigue and set ‘no meeting Fridays.
7. Encourage breaks
We all need breaks to rest and recharge – both within the day and throughout weeks and months. Emphasize the importance of scheduling short breaks to take a brisk walk, or stretch. Regular, aerobic activity has been shown to be as effective as medication and psychotherapy to alleviate symptoms of depression.
Encourage employees to take time to step away from their desks and eat lunch.
Encourage employees to set boundaries between work time and time off.
Encourage use of vacation and PTO days.
8. Offer child care as part of your inclusion strategy
Parents are exhausted juggling job responsibilities, overseeing remote learning and having less help from the outside world (there are less play-dates, relatives are keeping their distance, sports have been put on the back-burner and most museums remain closed). Employers can offer a childcare subsidy during this trying time, or offer a subscription to virtual child care services to give parents a break.
9. Social connection is vital
Employees aren’t able to gather around the water cooler or connect with their colleagues over lunch. Set up physical activity challenges, virtual coffee chats and themed happy hours (wear your favorite concert t-shirt, 80’s dance party, etc.).
10. Create a wellness challenge
Employees can earn points for completing a series of tasks, while learning about mental health and provided services.
Need help putting these ideas together? Feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our mental health and wellbeing services.