How to Take Care of Your Employees' Mental Health

December 2021

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 to production and wellbeing is depression. Depression currently affects 264 million people worldwide and is the primary cause of disability in the world.  

If you want to build a successful business, then you need the help of empowered and healthy professionals. This means that taking care of your employee’s mental health should be your top priority. So, let’s dig into six ways you can 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 wellbeing.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to her or his community.” Parting from this scientific logic, let’s redefine mental health and reconstruct a more optimistic approach we’re just not scared to talk about anymore. 

Why should small businesses worry about 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 an average of 40 hours a week working every week. So why don’t we try to alleviate this stress by promoting emotional wellness in the workplace? 

High levels of stress and poor mental health in the workplace aren’t just bad for employees; they are bad for the economy. Yes, poor mental health can lead to incredible economic losses. Depression costs employers an estimated $44 billion each year in lost productivityHere are some of the other immediate costs that small businesses might have to pay for when there’s poor emotional wellness in the workplace:

  • 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 notion 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! 

Ways to promote mental health as an employer:

A mental health professional talking to an employee1. 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 be hurting their job performance or wellbeing at no cost. 

The American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF). offers plenty of resources for employers on their 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. Need more cause to justify the means? For every $1 spent on care delivered in the CoCM, there is a $6.50 return of investment in health and productivity.

2. 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. This can also help employees feel cared for and valued. Something businesses are having trouble with lately. According to research, 79% of people quit their jobs because of the ‘lack of appreciationHere are ways you can make room for a resilient mental health dialogue in the workplace:

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. 

Implement changes based on feedback. Take the asking a step further, use all of the constructive criticism you get from your employees to build and apply new ways to foster mental health in the work environment. 

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. 

3. 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 team distinguishes a boss from a true leader, raises a sense of respect and fosters confidence in your group. Here are some ways you can train your executive team on mental health: 

Encourage your managers to be more human:Incentivize leaders to be vulnerable enough to share their challenges with mental health. This way, employees will feel accompanied and find that they can relate with their leaders. Superhumans just don’t cut it anymore. 

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. 

Evaluate levels of wellbeing, 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. 

The importance of mental health in the workplaceWays to promote mental health as an employee:

1. Take care of yourself

When you take care of yourself, you’re also taking care of others. So here are some simple steps to incorporate self-care in 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 that’s characterized by feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion, pessimistic or cynical feelings related to a job, and reduced professional efficacy. In other words, everything goes against mental health and emotional wellbeing in the workplace. 

So, what’s the best way to avoid burnout? To set safe boundaries when you can’t deal with it anymore. When we talk about setting boundaries, we’re referring to opting for self-care before exploding into a million pieces, mentally and physically. Learn how to delegate and talk 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 in and out of the workplace are bigger 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, emotional wellness at the workplace means that you’re 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?