The mental health and wellbeing of employees at work (both remote and in the office) must be prioritized.
The World Health Organization (WHO) calculated that:
“For every US $1 put into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US $4 in improved health and productivity.”
With this estimation, creating a healthy workplace that promotes and supports the importance of mental health should be a priority for team leaders. Another study shows that mental illness approximately affects 1 in 4 people in the UK each year. This has been on the rise since the early 1990s. However, many employers are failing to understand the importance of supporting mental health in the workplace. It leads to lost productivity, decreased motivation, and increased long-term absence–in fact, almost half of long-term absence is caused by mental illness or stress.
Fortunately, the concern about the importance of employee well-being has increased in recent years. The stigma that used to be associated with mental illness is slowly but surely being removed. As a result, attitudes towards mental health are shifting and more opportunities are being taken to be open about the issue.
Thanks to events like Mental Health Awareness Month (May) and Mental Illness Awareness Week (October), the awareness of mental health is growing.
Addressing Mental Health Hurdles at Work
Before Covid-19, almost 60% of employees never spoke to anyone at work about their mental health status. Awareness of mental health is increasing but it’s not enough to make people feel safe talking about mental health at work.
Many people who experience distress try to keep their feelings hidden because they are afraid of other people’s responses. Fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are among the top reasons people give for not telling their colleagues about their mental health problems.
Now with Covid-19, the world is learning new ways to live life and build community and work which can heighten feelings of frustration, anxiety, and stress. It’s important for organizations to lead with mental health in mind by creating a supportive space for teams.
There is strong evidence that workplaces that promote and support employees’ wellbeing have better performances than those that do not. And we believe that employee wellbeing goes hand in hand with strong leadership and supportive management.
From research conducted by Harvard Business Review (HBR), we learn that employees want their organizations to address mental health issues and a company’s culture should support mental health. Organizations that want to improve the state of mental health at work need to adjust their strategies. More importantly, team leaders need to acknowledge that mental health is a part of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues.
Creating Supportive Space for Employee’s Well Being
A company’s culture plays a big role in promoting and supporting mental health in the workplace. If a workplace is not powered by a culture that values employees’ well-being and mental health then the culture needs to be adjusted. Bear in mind that improving workplace culture is a top-down process.
Start at the top, Leading by Example
It starts with transforming leaders into colleagues. Leaders should be honest about their own mental health and share their experiences (or those of close family members or friends). This will help them create that supportive space. A good leader doesn’t simply lead by telling others what to do– to be open about mental health status. They lead by example, by showing others what to do.
Leading by example through honest communication and compassion is a great strategy to promote mental health at work. When leaders view disclosure and vulnerability as strengths, not weaknesses, it will build a culture that reduces the stigma of mental health. A workplace that normalizes conversations about mental health makes employees feel empowered and safe to share their own experiences.
“The leaders who help people open up about whatever is holding them back at work, will be the most effective and admired. – Nick Tzitzon”
Show that Self Care is a Priority
Saying that you’re supporting mental health is not enough. Leaders must take action by modeling healthy behaviors. For instance, share that you’re prioritizing self-care and setting boundaries; starting the day with morning breathwork and meditation, having yoga sessions regularly, actually turning off email when you’re on staycation, and doing your favorite activities to prevent burnout. The bottom line is you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Leaders who show that they’re prioritizing self-care, also emphasizing their recognition that work/life balance is important.
Invest in Mental Health Education
Training is essential to learn how to name, normalize and navigate mental health at work. Team leaders are not therapists but they should have a baseline knowledge of tools they can use during difficult conversations and actions they can take to respond to employees who may be struggling as well as an understanding of mental health conditions and their impact at work.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution therefore team leaders must acknowledge to treat each individual with respect and openness.
Embrace Flexibility with Clear Communication Process
The flexibility of remote working certainly has downsides. One of them is that it can result in an “always-on” working environment as everyone has flexible and different working hours. An “always-on” workplace is not sustainable and can increase pressure and quickly turns into an unpleasant place to work.
The key to accommodating your employees’ needs while still protecting work-life balance is to embrace flexibility with a clear communication process. For example, set communication hours so that working matters only get delivered during those hours.
If any urgent issues must happen outside of the set communication hours, use a different communication channel that is rarely used for the usual work matters such as phone calls or text messages.
This strategy still offers flexibility for everyone on your team to work whenever is appropriate for them and also sticking to “communication hours” without feeling like having to work all the time to accommodate everyone else’s schedule.
Wellness as an Essential Part of Employee Experience
At RandomDots, we strongly believe that an organization’s most valuable assets are its people and the biggest contributing aspects to their happiness are their health and wellbeing. For team leaders who want to create a positive employee experience, start with health & wellness.
Caring about employees’ health and wellness creates mutual commitment and emotional connection. It sends an important message to your employees that you care about them.
Health and wellness is at the heart of the employee experience and it’s really about the quality of life for your employees.
Promoting mental health at the workplace won’t be accomplished until all employees feel comfortable being honest and open about their mental health conditions without fear of consequences. This is where inclusive workplace culture is needed. Leaders and employees should work together as a team to reduce the stigma, normalize a conversation about mental health and build a working system that protects work/life balance.
Mental health matters because our brains are just as crucial to our wellbeing. Through education and wellness experiences, employees can understand that mental health issues are not uncommon and that they are treatable. It also helps you to cultivate an accepting environment that reduces the stigma and minimizes the effects.
Supporting mental health in the workplace shows that the employees’ quality of life is valued. Nothing communicates this better than creating a balanced culture where people feel that they matter. A balanced culture is fueled by mutual trust that reinforces the importance of mental wellness and acceptance.