Mental health is a crucial topic in today’s day and age, and it isn’t something that magically disappears in the workplace.
We have to acknowledge that work can be a significant source of stress for employees, which can lead to all sorts of mental health problems.
Roughly 9 in 10 employees identify stress as a negative influence on their mental health. The same source finds that 60% of these same employees are not receiving the help they need to adequately address mental health concerns.
Whether you’re answering emails, assembling products, or delegating tasks to employees, work can prove to be a stress-inducing atmosphere.
Fortunately, a well-oriented human resources (HR) department can help employees at all levels deal with these and other mental health issues appropriately.
No matter the size of your business, the strategies below can help fortify your employees’ mental health.
Let’s get going!
5 Strategies to Boost Employees’ Mental Health
With the right programs in place, an HR department can help employees address their mental health challenges sufficiently.
HR representatives can implement these strategies to foster an employee-first mentality in the workplace, where mental health issues are prioritized and heard — regardless of how big or small they may be.
Promote a Healthy Work-life Balance
One of the most important things HR can do is to promote a healthy work-life balance. This means creating policies and procedures that encourage employees to take breaks, use their vacation days, and not work excessive hours.
It also means being understanding when employees need to take time off for personal or family reasons.
There are a number of ways HR can achieve this objective — an excellent example being the implementation of flexible scheduling.
Employers who adopt flexible scheduling models can set deadlines for employees, and require only that work is accomplished by those deadlines. Employees are free to work the hours they choose, so long as projects are completed on time.
Integrate Employee Feedback
Companies looking to prioritize employee mental health should also ensure that employee opinions and suggestions are heard, considered, and implemented when valid.
This also means that company policies should be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure they are effective and not contributing to employee stress.
Although this can be a painstaking process due to collecting potentially hundreds or thousands of employee opinions, it will be worth it in the long run to have a mentally healthy workforce.
HR departments can collect and assess employee feedback in a variety of ways. These methods can include:
- Suggestions boxes where employees can leave feedback anonymously.
- Team meetings dedicated solely to employee opinions, impressions, and feedback.
- Individual meetings between employees and HR department representatives, where employees are free to share thoughts in a private, non-judgmental setting.
- Online portals or platforms dedicated to registering employee feedback.
Employees who feel heard may feel more comfortable trusting their company leadership.
Alternatively, employees who feel unheard are oftentimes more likely to make their opinions known across other channels — including social media — which can create difficult situations for employees, HR departments, and employers.
Improve Employees’ Benefits Package
There’s more to an employee’s benefits package than a salary. Benefits do more than help employees cover medical expenses; they also help to remind employees that they are appreciated by their employer.
Though it can be tempting for an HR department to offer minimal benefits to employees — especially as a cost-cutting measure — improved benefits packages can, directly and indirectly, improve an employee’s wellbeing.
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) can also serve as an affordable option to help employees address mental health challenges, offering services that include family therapy, substance use treatment, and financial asset management.
Employees with partially or fully covered mental health services will be more likely to pursue counseling, therapy, and treatment whenever necessary. Those same employees are then less likely to adversely affect the productivity, output, or overall morale of the workplace.
Administer Mental Health Training
Mental health training teaches employees about common mental health concerns that may arise in the workplace. This training, administered by a company’s HR department, offers a safe environment where employees can learn and ask questions about simple and complex mental health issues.
When employees gather for mental health training, they take time away from their desks and their typical work schedules to make mental health a priority.
Even if these training sessions last only for a day or two, they help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace.
At the same time, employees learn how to recognize and guard against a variety of mental health issues, including trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Discipline Employees Appropriately
HR departments are responsible for hiring new employees and equipping current employees with the tools they need to succeed. When necessary, HR departments also handle employee discipline and release.
Appropriate employee disciplinary measures can also help support mental health in the workplace.
More than two million employees are victims of workplace violence each year. HR departments can help eliminate the possibility of workplace violence, and other workplace conflicts, simply by administering discipline before issues escalate.
Ultimately, your company’s HR department works to promote a unified workforce, where employees work together to accomplish shared goals.
Disciplining employees who lose sight of these goals — and parting ways with employees when necessary — can help preserve the mental health of all employees dedicated to the company’s vision.
Signs Employees are Struggling with their Mental Health
As an HR professional, it’s important to be able to identify when employees might be struggling with their mental health.
Here are some of the more common signs to look out for:
1. They’re taking more sick days than usual
If employees are sick at odd points throughout the year, or are taking unusually large amounts of sick leave, this could be a sign that they’re struggling to cope with work-related stress.
HR should keep a watchful eye on employee’s working records to gauge whether this is a one-off occurrence or part of a larger trend.
2. They’re exhibiting changes in behavior
We sometimes notice an employee who is usually outgoing and social start to become withdrawn and introverted. This could indicate that they’re struggling with their mental health.
Other changes in behavior to look out for include lateness, or taking longer lunches/breaks.
3. They’re not meeting their usual standards
If an employee who is usually a high-performer starts to make mistakes or misses deadlines, it may mean that they’re struggling to cope with the demands of their job.
HR should be wary of not being too critical of employees not meeting their usual standard of work, and should instead offer solutions to deal with the problem.
Kicking and screaming for the employee to work harder is unlikely to fix anything — it will simply lead to a more toxic work environment which is a net negative for the company and all its employees.
4. They’re complaining of physical ailments
Stress can manifest itself in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, and insomnia.
Employees may frequently complain of these kinds of ailments, so it’s worth investigating whether stress and other forms of poor mental health might be the underlying cause.
5. They seem disengaged from their work
A tell-tale sign that an employee is struggling with their mental health is a sudden lack of interest in their work.
They might start skipping team meetings, or avoid socializing with colleagues. If you notice an employee exhibiting these kinds of behaviors, it’s important to have a conversation with them to see what’s going on.
5 Quick Ways to Improve Your Office’s Atmosphere
Even small changes to a company’s working conditions can improve employee mental health.
Employees who spend a large amount of time at a desk, or in a stationary position, will particularly enjoy a workspace that’s more than a computer and four walls.
Any employee, no matter how much they love their job, is sure to get sick of the same view of their desk and a laptop 24/7.
Let’s go through 5 quick ways HR departments can diversify a working environment, leading to improved mental health for their employees.
- Adding plants into the workspace to make the setting more comfortable and appealing.
- Enhancing workplace lighting by adding windows, skylights, or natural lamps to allow for as much natural light as possible.
- Choosing vibrant paints that add complement traditionally white walls with splashes of color.
- Removing walls, cubicles, or other obstructions to enhance collaboration and conversation in a working environment.
- Improving employee break spaces with healthy snacks, comfortable seating, and stocked refrigerators.
When a corporate workspace feels more opportunistic and less restrictive, employee mental health stands to benefit.
HR departments can help create this type of working environment, whether it’s through a series of new desk plants or paid employee lunches. There’s no price too steep when the reward is strong employee mental health.
The World’s Best HR Departments: An Analysis
The best companies in the world are those that put their employees’ mental health at the forefront. They understand that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and they go above and beyond to make sure their employees are taken care of.
So, how are these HR departments improving employees’ mental health? Let’s take a look.
Take SAS for an example. The HR department at SAS has implemented a program called “Be Well at SAS.” This program includes on-site fitness facilities, health coaching, and mental health counseling.
They also have an employee assistance program that provides confidential counseling services for employees and their families.
Google is another great example of a company that takes its employees’ mental health seriously.
The company offers weekly “Mindful Meditation” classes, on-site counselors, and support groups for employees dealing with anxiety or depression.
They also have a “Resilience” program that helps employees build stress-resilience skills. Since the tech industry can be highly stressful and very complicated to deal with on a daily basis, this seems an excellent idea to implement.
Adobe’s HR department has implemented a number of programs to improve employees’ mental health.
These include an “Employee Support Services” program that provides confidential counseling and support, a “Wellness Reimbursement” program that reimburses employees for fitness activities, and a “Mental Health days off” policy that allows employees to take a day off to focus on their mental health.
Virgin Group has a “Wellness in the Workplace” program that includes on-site gyms, yoga and Pilates classes, health assessments, and mental health support.
The company also offers employees up to 10 days of paid leave per year to use for their mental health.
Nike’s HR department also offers a number of programs to improve employees’ mental health, including on-site counseling, support groups, and stress management workshops.
The company also has an “Employee Assistance Program” that provides confidential counseling services for employees and their families.
These are just a few examples of how HR departments in the best companies in the world are improving employees’ mental health.
By offering programs and services that support employee wellness, these companies are creating a culture of care that benefits both the employees and the company as a whole.
It’s apparent that improving your employee’s mental health is a crucial part of making a business successful. Not only will it improve your firm’s performance, but it is morally the right thing to do.
HR should be wary of signs employees are struggling with their mental health, and employ some of the strategies mentioned in this article to address potential problems.
Even taking small steps like improving your office environment can make a big difference to your employees happiness and their mental healthy. Everyone likes a bit of variety!
We can also learn from the best HR departments in the world, and possibly implement some of their strategies to improve the mental health of our employees.
HR departments should bring this to the forefront of their minds, and take action to improve their employees’ mental health as much as possible and as quickly as possible.