Returning to work in the new year can (hopefully) have us feeling recharged and optimistic about the challenges that lay ahead. For employers, the start of the new year can offer a clean slate and the opportunity to amend organizational standards and institute culture changes to benefit employees.

Moving into 2020, a priority for any progressive employer is to build a mentally healthy workplace that is resilient to any challenges or adversity that lay ahead.

Here are 5 ways leaders can boost mental health in their workplace this year:

1. More Agility, Less Rigidity

5 Ways to Build a Mentally Healthy Workplace in 2020

77% of millennials say that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive for people their age. With millennials now being the majority demographic of most workplaces today, being agile to their needs will help boost morale, attract talent, and maximize productivity. This can include certain work-from-home arrangements, flex hours, or tech accommodations such as SaaS/Cloud software to enable remote employment situations. Employers that fail to be as agile will see a reduction in talent willing to work for them, as well as risk decreased employee morale and productivity.

2. Leverage Personalized & Proactive Digital Training Tools

Personalized training

Mental health training can, as we know, involve sensitive material. Employees that receive standardized, in-person training can naturally be tentative about sharing due to the stigma that is prevalent around mental health today, especially if they’re among their peers or even boss(es). In-person training is also time-prohibitive, more expensive, and doesn’t offer end-to-end support. We also know that training is never one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to our mental health.

Personalized digital training addresses all of these shortcomings, offering employees anonymous access to materials that they can use on their own time, discretely, and is also specific for their unique needs. Finally, ensuring the training is proactive, meaning it offers them skills to manage their mental wellness before it becomes an illness, will help prevent short and long term disability and build resilience in your workforce.

3. Follow the C.A.R.E Model to the ‘Mental Health’ Conversation


A simple approach to having the ‘mental health’ conversation more effectively, and more frequently, is following the C.A.R.E model.

C – Create a Time and Space

You need to schedule enough time, in a private setting, to have the mental health conversation with an employee who’s broached this topic.

A – Attend, Don’t Fix

It’s important as a leader you listen and don’t try to tix the problem. Resist that urge to give advice, and simply listen and attend to that individual. Lending an ear is the most important thing you can do.

R – Respond & Refer

Plan next steps during this meeting. This includes where the person can go and what resources your organization has in place to help them. It’s also appropriate to explore what options are available externally, which your HR team can help with. It’s important to remember you’re NOT the therapist or there to fix them, you’re simply there to show you care and respond and refer them as appropriate.

E – Earmark Time for a Follow-up.

Set up a time for a follow-up. Whether it’s in a week or a month, you should agree on a plan forward as to when you can connect again.

4. Respect Employee Boundaries

5 Ways Leaders Can Build a Mentally Healthy Workplace in 2020

Common boundaries that are crossed when it comes to our employment are time (i.e long work hours), being always-on (i.e always connected through our mobile devices), and occasionally, overworking them. While these boundaries are often inadvertently crossed, it’s important to instill checks and balances to make sure this isn’t being done, and ways to recognize when your people are bumping up against their ceiling. Scheduling regular 1-on-1’s to get a pulse check is a good way to manage this, and also giving days-in-lieu when its evident that employees have been going the extra mile, can go a long way.

5. Lead by Example When it Comes to Mental Wellness

Group Mindfulness Session

It’s one thing to call for more balance and encourage your employees, but without doing it yourself it becomes an empty promise. Holding things like optional mindfulness sessions over lunch time– but actually being there and participating yourself – will almost certainly help your staff feel welcome and more inclined to participate. The important thing is to demonstrate that a) you take YOUR mental wellness seriously, and b) you take THEIRS equally as seriously, because you care.

With the clean slate of the new year in front of us, building in these practices can help build a mentally healthy and resilient workforce in 2020 that’s ready to conquer any challenges ahead of them.


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