You want your employees to perform at their best; wouldn't you want them to feel their best too? Mental health and human performance do go hand in hand. They depend on one another. The number one enemy of production and well-being is depression. Depression currently affects 264 million people worldwide and is the primary cause of disability worldwide.
If you want to build a successful business, then you need the help of empowered and healthy professionals. Taking care of your employee's mental health should be your top priority. So, let's dig into six ways to take care of your employee's mental health in the workplace.
What is mental health?
We often leave off talking about mental health until things explode or start going downhill. In fact, as a society, we associate mental health only with mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, or anxiety. But mental health is not just the lack of a mental illness. Mental health is well-being.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to her or his community." Parting from this scientific logic, let's redefine mental health and reconstruct a more optimistic approach we're not scared to talk about anymore.
Emotional wellness in the workplace
What are Americans most stressed about these days? Well, work. And this, of course, makes sense. Most Americans spend more than 40 hours a week working every week. So why don't we try to alleviate this stress by promoting emotional wellness in the workplace? When there's poor emotional wellness in the workplace, there are:
Poor productivity levels and job performance.
Less cognitive performance and even working memory.
Poor communication: misinterpretations or over-reacting.
A passive-aggressive verbal interchange.
A pessimistic attitude.
Bad decision-making skills
Lack of empathy or team building.
How to promote mental health in your workplace?
The best that small business owners can do to promote mental health in the workplace is to educate themselves, reframe their pre-established notions on mental health and follow through.
To be a true example for your employees, you'll need to apply positive mental health habits within your day-to-day too. So, let's go. These are the six ways you can promote mental health in your workplace as an employer and employee!
How to promote mental health as an employer
1. Use workplace mental health programs and resources
You don't have to do it alone; you're not a health professional. Thankfully there are many distinguished health associations out there with plenty of tools and resources such as:
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): These federally endorsed programs assist employees with personal or work-related problems that may hurt their job performance or well-being at no cost.
The American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF): Offers plenty of resources for employers on its page. Through these resources, small business owners can self-assess the impact of mental health issues in their workplace, dispose of mental health awareness programs, and learn how to implement the right initiatives to address depression.
Ensure that your health care plan includes the Collaborative Care Model (CoCM): This model addresses mental health issues by consulting psychiatrists, behavioral health care managers, and primary care providers.
Talk about mental health with your employees. The most sincere and genuine approach you can take as an employer is creating an environment where employees feel they can talk about mental health. Something businesses are having trouble with lately. Below are ways you can make room for a resilient mental health dialogue in the workplace:
a) Ask! Every quarter you should set aside time to ask employees how they want to be helped, what worries them, and what types of resources could alleviate their stress. You can do this with anonymous surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one sessions backed up with the advice of mental health professionals.
b) Implement changes based on feedback. Take the asking a step further, and use all the constructive criticism you get from your employees to build and apply new ways to foster mental health in the work environment.
c) Provide an open safe place to chat. Give your employees a safe place of containment where they can feel secure about talking about mental health challenges. Ensure that this place is private and confidential so that they don't feel judged or that their job is at stake.
2. Train your executive team to prioritize mental health
According to People Management, one in four managers has never had any management training. A good manager has to empower and support their team during the bad, the good, and the ugly.
Effective management doesn't just mean pushing your team to be the best. It also means recognizing common workplace issues, like stress and anxiety. Providing support to your squad distinguishes a boss from a true leader, raises a sense of respect and fosters confidence in your group.
Below are some ways you can train your executive team on mental health:
a) Encourage your managers to be more human: Incentivize leaders to be vulnerable enough to share their challenges with mental health. This way, employees feel accompanied and find that they can relate to their leaders. Superhumans just don't cut it anymore.
b) Call out unethical and toxic mental health behaviors from superiors: Power or ambition can often cause managers to act disrespectful or cold with their team members. Additionally, disorganized managers can also bring a sense of insecurity. Identify and take corrective measures if this is a current trend in your workplace.
c) Evaluate levels of well-being, not just employee performance: A lot of companies only reward performance. But behind all those numbers, there is a human being. Are you taking care of them? Start evaluating levels of contentment and well-being. This will help keep your team encouraged and valued in the long term.
How to promote mental health as an employee
1. Take care of yourself
When you take care of yourself, you also care for others. Below are some simple steps to incorporate self-care into your routine to enhance the way you feel at work:
Leave room for silence: Meditation and mindfulness might feel strange. But the best way to escape confusion is to get in tune with yourself. Journaling your thoughts can also help.
Move your body! The benefits of self-care are chemically proven. Exercise boosts mood-lifting endorphins.
Connect with nature: Sunshine, dirt, the outdoors. Mother nature is wise and can help you raise serotine levels in the brain that fight depression.
2. Set boundaries to avoid burnout at work
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress characterized by exhaustion or energy depletion, pessimistic or cynical feelings related to a job, and reduced professional efficacy.
In other words, everything goes against the workplace's mental health and emotional well-being. Learn how to delegate and speak to your team about the high levels of stress you're facing to distribute the workload. Seek preventive action, don't wait until you're about to burst.
3. Take a break from work
Entrepreneurs and small business owners might find it difficult to disconnect from work. But you'll eventually need to disconnect from work to connect with other vital aspects of your life. Therefore, our best advice here is to plan time away from work. Respect your personal time just as much as you respect the time you've scheduled to work.
Schedule short breaks in your calendar like you schedule meetings and deadlines for assignments. When we take this pause, you'll find yourself coming back more refreshed and sharper than before. Rest, restore, and reboot.
The positive effects of caring for your health are more significant than you can imagine
Having good mental health at the workplace doesn't mean that birds will chirp and sing and dance away as you turn in last month's performance reports to your superior. Instead, workplace emotional wellness means creating an environment that encourages and provides the right resources to cope with our responsibilities and changes.
A workplace that takes care of the emotional wellness of its employees will motivate us to unleash our potential in our roles, manage stress, and be more resilient whenever a storm comes. It is about preparing our team for the best and the worst. Isn't that what life is about anyway?