Many people are actively taking action to put their mental health first before anything else, and in the last few years, businesses have started to follow suit. What once was shameful to talk about in the workforce, even amongst coworkers, is now at the forefront of modern business. Improving employee mental health support continues towards an upwards trajectory, and leaders need to embrace the dialogue around it.
Why exactly is it important to be open about employee wellbeing? Because stress and burnout are at an all-time high due to the uncertainty of technological changes, the notion of the Great Resignation, and of course, the pandemic. It’s important to acknowledge mental health wellness amongst employees, not only to consider individual wellbeing but the culture and work environment of your whole organization. This is a crucial step in actioning ways to improve employee mental health.
1. Catching stress and burnout signals early on
Mental health is often referenced as a 1-in-5 problem, but really, it’s a 5-in-5 reality that we live through in our daily lives. It affects all aspects of our everyday life from sleep hygiene to work tasks. Typically, we see that working adults seek out mental health resources when they have truly felt the effects of stress and burnout. Now, businesses are acknowledging that ‘last case’ or conflating mental ill-health programs, as mental health resources are no longer a fit for their workforce. Rather, the next trend prefers preventative tools that allow the employees to train on their own time, in manageable sprints, and initiate real change to improve their total wellbeing.
2. Adopting collaborative and consistent communication with your team
It’s been tough trying to stay engaged since we have moved from in-office to remote/hybrid work. The lack of bodies in the office reduces the amount of random and quick conversations amongst coworkers. How do we keep the workforce involved and actively engaged in any setting? Through consistent collaboration.
For example, at headversity we adopt the communication process from a book called Traction, by Gino Wickham. The basis behind this communication style is that the entire workforce relies on collaborative meetings with structured agendas, open discussions, and room for improvements. Constantly relaying that there is always room to grow, learn from mistakes, and improve.
This is just one method businesses can strive for healthy communication, individual accountability, and team check-ins. Not every company is the same; employee cooperation and feedback are vital to achieving this goal. In relation to driving new mental health strategies at work, 3M Benefits Specialist Jacquie McLennan notes, “reducing stigma, helping with coping, building resilience – those are the kinds of things we heard in the employee focus groups that we really needed to get out there to help employees do just that.” When we involve as many players as possible, the more likely you’ll see desired results.
3. Incorporate mental health training for teams AND individuals
Workers are dealing with unexpected adversity and may not know it. For many, the pandemic has created an influx of small but ongoing disruptions in their personal lives that can flow into their work. This is where employee assistance programs (EAPs) have historically acted as a support resource. Over half of the workforce have access to their employer’s EAP program. However, they are underutilized and lack awareness. Instead, they offer a content bank of information for individuals to sift through at their discretion as a ‘choose your own adventure’. Because of these limitations, 65% of companies will revamp their EAPs and health technology.
In a perfect world, EAPs cover anyone and everyone, no matter what their mental wellbeing currently looks like. But that’s not the reality. HR and company leaders are now looking for ways to boost their workforce wellness programs to support the full spectrum of mental health, not just illness. When leaders search for ways to help build mental resilience within their organizations on a departmental and personal level, training that promotes preventative mental health is key to making an improved difference. Incorporating wellness tools on both a team and individual level not only encourages real collaboration and feedback, but also a way for people to digest on their own time.
4. Setting a safety standard with flexibility
Whatever your return-to-office plan looks like, be sure to set safety guidelines as well as accommodations for your employees. According to a McKinsey survey, one-third of employees said their return to in-office work has a negative impact on their mental health. However, the survey notes companies that recognize and prioritize psychological and physical safety in their post-pandemic workforce can help employees’ wellbeing and cultivate inclusive workspaces. We can all experience anxieties as to what the ‘back to office’ plan looks like – this is inevitable. What leaders can do to reduce worries starts with communication. Talk to employees, implement a plan, and be flexible. As we head towards a new normal, this is a simple way to reduce the negativity surrounding office discourse.
5. Leading by example
We can go on and on about ways to improve employee mental health, but what good does it do if leaders aren’t using and promoting organizational wellness tools? The expectation that employees should use their existing EAPs should include all staff, no matter where they sit in the hierarchy. Executives aren’t superhuman. We can all experience stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout. This is normal, and it’s time to build resilience for yourself – this can play a big role in encouraging teams to buy into mental health training, too.
Interested in learning more?
These are only five of the many ways businesses can improve employee mental health. If you are interested in a seamless platform that can improve your employees’ total wellbeing, then connect with us!