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It is estimated that roughly one in five adults in the United States lives with mental illness. This includes a wide range of disorders that can have a mild or severe impact on an individual’s daily living.
Like it or not, stressors in the workplace can sometimes contribute to or worsen mental health challenges. In fact, surveys indicate that one in four employees experience weekly performance issues related to stress, anxiety and work-related pressures, while 63 percent report struggling on a monthly basis.
Because of this, employers have the responsibility to ensure the mental and emotional well-being of their employees. While you can’t control everything that factors into an employee’s mental health, there are simple things employers can do to promote a positive influence in the office.
Promote mental health awareness
Destigmatizing discussions about mental health in the office often starts by promoting awareness. Business leaders should provide ample resources and information to employees to help them learn more about mental health and well as where they can go to seek help when needed. These resources should also include information on addiction recovery, as substance abuse often co-occurs with mental health challenges.
Mental health training can be especially beneficial for those in management positions. Offering leaders within your organization training on how to recognize depression, anxiety and other mental health symptoms — as well as proper intervention techniques — can enable them to engage with struggling team members in a supportive and beneficial manner.
Provide stress-relieving break activities
Work-related pressures can make the office (or even work-from-home) environment more stressful than it needs to be. Leaders can address this by regularly providing healthy break activities for the entire team. For example, practicing yoga has been found to significantly reduce stress and anxiety in both children and adults. Scheduling an on-site yoga session (or even virtual yoga for your work-from-home team) with a local instructor can help release tension and teach employees a valuable coping activity.
Alternatively, you could set up well-being stations that staff members can use for their breaks during the day. Areas for meditation or stretching, or even providing adult coloring books can serve as a valuable mental health break. Don’t be afraid to let your team go outside and enjoy some fresh air, either! For work-from-home employees, offer scheduled breaks during the day to encourage them to step away from their computers.
Demonstrate a genuine interest in employee well-being
Much of our self-worth comes from knowing that others value and care about us. This is especially true in the workplace, where studies reveal that simply “feeling valued” at work improves mental health, as well as job satisfaction and engagement. Helping employees feel valued starts by demonstrating genuine interest in their lives. Make an effort to remember details about their personal lives, such as the names of their family members and what their weekend plans are.
Lead by example to eliminate stigma
Workplace perceptions toward mental health and other issues start at the top. Even if your company has an official policy regarding mental health, discussions and attitudes toward these initiatives will largely be based on leaders’ words and actions.
This doesn’t mean you have to tell all the details of your own problems and challenges to your staff. But being open enough to share when you feel overwhelmed or that you’re having a rough day can be affirming and empowering to others.
Honesty and openness let everyone know that it is okay to share how they are feeling and that having bad days is normal. Your personal actions will have a trickle-down effect that impacts how others are willing to discuss mental health in the workplace.
Communicate regularly to address workplace stress
Like it or not, stress quite often results from the work your employees perform for you day in and day out. In fact, the ASI Workplace Stress Survey reports that workload is the number one cause of workplace stress, cited by 41 percent of respondents. An additional 18 percent cited juggling work and personal life as a leading stressor.
Related: 5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health
Leaders have the responsibility to ensure that workloads are appropriate for each member of their team. Managers should meet regularly with their employees to discuss these and other challenges to get a true understanding of what everyone’s workloads are like. It is not appropriate for an employee to regularly be turning in 60-hour weeks because of how much they are responsible for. Don’t be afraid to embrace the growing “chill work” mindset, which focuses on producing high-quality work while still setting boundaries to keep work from becoming overwhelming. Quite often, fewer responsibilities mean work is done better.
Understanding when employees are feeling overwhelmed can help leaders identify when they need to adjust workloads or even hire additional staff.
Business leaders can make a difference
Your employees spend a significant portion of their week involved with your business — and as such, what happens in the workplace can have a major impact on their mental health. When leaders take steps to address their employees’ mental and emotional well-being, employees will have improved job performance, productivity and engagement. They will be better communicators.
Taking an interest in your team’s mental health doesn’t just improve the business’s bottom line. Most importantly, these steps will ensure that your team members are more likely to be happy and healthy, and able to manage all challenges in their life.