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Four Ways Employers Can Support Employees’ Mental Health
“Mental health problems and illnesses among working adults in Canada cost employers more than $6 billion in lost productivity from absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover in 2011.”
– Mental Health Commission of Canada
Workplaces can play a vital role in supporting and maintaining positive mental health for their employees. They can give people a sense of productivity, value, and achievement, all of which are strong contributors to employees’ mental well-being.
Yet, a workplace can also often be a big stressor and a contributor to poor mental health. There is no workplace that is immune from poor mental health risks to its employees.
Just as poor physical health can impact employees’ work performance, poor mental health is often associated with emotional distress and psychosocial impairment comparable to that of a major depressive episode.
Employee Mental Health
It is important to understand the causes and triggers for good or poor employee mental health as the later impact their over health, performance, productivity, and their work interactions. As such, employers should make a conscious effort to foster a positive work environment that enriches its employees and supports their mental health.
Prior to discussing what employees can do to support mental health of their employees, it is critical to understand some of the causes or contributors to poor employee mental health:
- Stress is the largest risk factor in poor mental health for everyone and specifically employees. While stress is common to experience in any workplace environment or field, excessive stress can have major risks on someone’s mental health.
- Bullying and Harassment at workplace are big contributors to mental health as it leaves victims with long lasting impacts that are uneasy to overcome.
- Poor working environment which includes poor working hours and workplace that can impact both mental and physical wellbeing of employees on the long-term.
What If Employees’ Mental Health is Ignored?
Unfortunately, if employee mental health is not taken care of, major risks will take place that cannot be easily eliminated or mitigated on the long run. Here are some of those risks of ignoring employee mental health:
- It reduces trust between employers and their employees.
- It creates unsupportive, distrustful company culture.
- It can decrease employee performance and productivity.
What Can Employers Do To Support Their Employees’ Mental Health?
Model Healthy Behaviors & Encourage Proper Self-Care
Promote the importance of self-care to your employees and lead by example. Consider offering paid time off for mental wellness days and/or schedule a team breaks so your employees can mentally rest during the day. Be creative with ways to support their mental health at work such as setting up companywide formal “walk” together if conditions permit.
Implement Supportive Workplace Mental Health Policies
Some of the helpful resources that supports employee mental health is Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), bereavement leave, grief counselling, and general mental health counselling. EAPs are great option to include in your employee benefits plan as it offers confidential counselling services to your employee. Learn more about EAPs here.
Other policies that support employee mental health are anti-discrimination policies (including bullying and harassment). Implementing such policies will foster more welcoming and accepting work environment and ensure that employees are safe and protected at their workplace. If you already have a policy in place, review it and see how you can better support your employees.
Encourage Work – Life Balance
Work -life balance is an essential aspect of a healthy work environment as it helps reduce stress and prevents burnouts. Work-life balance starts with offering flexible hours options. This helps employees have greater control and time management of their day, chance to avoid traffic, and opportunity to attend medical appointments, of all which is needed for mental health.
Facilitate a Clear Communication
Communicate with your employees clearly and compassionately about your company’s policies, and mental health treatment options. Offering that regular, open, and consistent communication with your employees helps strengthen relationship between you and your employee and ultimately boosts their mental health.