We Need To Talk About Mental Health in Your Workplace

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As a small business owner, you pride yourself on delivering the personal touch to your customers. You know most of them very well, and when a new customer comes into the fold, you make an effort to get to know their needs, their preferences and what they value most. Your business’ growth is built on your relationship with them, and your ability to understand and preempt their needs. But, of course, the personal touch doesn’t just extend to your customers. It also extends to your employees. You take an active interest in their professional development, ensuring that each gets the training and support they need to meet their career goals. 

You’re committed to your employees’ wellbeing. But what are your policies on mental health? Are they clearly defined? Are they consistently applied across your workforce? Do your employees even know what they are? What support do you provide for employees with mental health issues, and do they know how to access it? If the answer to any of these questions is “Ummm, I’m not sure”, you could probably be doing more to safeguard your employees’ wellbeing in a holistic and comprehensive way. 

How much is your lack of mental health infrastructure costing you?

According to the CDC, mental health is among the most burdensome health issues for employers in the US. Almost 20% of working-age adults in the US report having a mental illness of some kind while over 7-% report symptoms of stress. 

Mental health issues can impinge on engagement with one’s work, communication with colleagues and, of course, their performance and productivity at work. 

This could, in turn, burden you with the costs associated with reduced productivity as well as increasing treatment and insurance costs. 

In other words, you can’t afford not to have a consistent policy on mental health. 

But how can you support your employees’ mental wellbeing in tangible, meaningful ways? All workplaces are high-pressure environments in one way or another, but does that mean that employers can’t take active steps to mitigate stress? How effective can any employer be in ensuring their employees’ mental health on a long-term basis? 

You may be surprised by just how much you can do to protect your team’s mental health. Here are some ways in which you can  prioritize and protect the mental health of your employees, and make substantial savings in doing so…

Support general health and wellbeing

Mental health issues are often talked about in isolation. But there’s a clear relationship between our mental health and our physical health. If we are not in good physical health, we’re likely to be more vulnerable to mental health issues. Thus, the first step towards safeguarding mental health is to have an infrastructure to keep your employees physically healthy. Something that’s especially important in the current climate. A healthy, active lifestyle not only supports mental health, it also boosts immune function meaning that less time and productivity is lost to illness. 

Some steps you can take include;

  • Ensuring that your workplace cafeteria or break room is stocked with healthy food options. Limit the amount of processed foods and refined carbohydrates / sugars and trans fats. 
  • Encourage team members to walk and cycle to work where possible.
  • Set up workplace sports teams (this will not only keep employees fit and healthy, it can also help to improve their mental health and team dynamic). 
  • Incentivize employees to come up with their own ideas to improve the health of your workplace.  
  • Build relationships with local gyms and offer employees discounted membership. 

Learn how to spot the signs, and teach your managerial team

Mental health problems rarely come out of nowhere. When employees experience mental health issues that are profound enough to make them need time off work (or severely impede their performance at work), it’s often an issue that has been building for some time. 

By learning to spot the signs of mental health problems in your employees, you can potentially preempt and defuse problems before they happen. Some of the warning signs may include;

  • Lapses in appearance / personal hygiene.
  • Emotionally erratic or volatile behavior.
  • Employees seem tired or distracted.
  • A decrease in productivity.
  • Loss of cognitive function, with the employee getting confused or struggling to comprehend tasks and instructions. 

You can read more about the warning signs of potential mental health issues here. Train your managerial team to recognize these signs in their team members and you’ll be able to intervene on their behalf and get them the support they need. 

Give them the tools to support their own mental health

Many employees would prefer to be given the tools to help themselves, rather than their employer intervening on their behalf. What’s more, some employees may be apprehensive about coming to you with their mental health problems as they worry about how you might perceive them and even that their issues might make their employment with you untenable. 

Maske mental health self-assessment tools available to all employes, and make them aware of ways in which they can access free resources when they get low, such as 988 dialling. Hold workshops (bringing in outside experts) on stress management techniques like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation. And make sure employees have a quiet, calm, dedicated space in which they can practice these techniques. Give them literature on ways in which they can safeguard their own mental health through diet, exercise and the right cognitive techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Providing employees with their own mental health toolkit may feel like you’re shirking responsibility, but you’re actually empowering them by giving them the means to help themselves.

Choose an insurance package that values mental health

Finally, as well as ensuring that employees have the tools to protect themselves, you can also help by giving them insurance that safeguards their mental health without grievously high out-of-pocket expenses. When employees know that they can get access to counselling and clinical support without incurring expenses (which could exacerbate depression, anxiety and frustration), they know that you have their back in every way.

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