Practical Initiatives to Support Employee Mental Health

8
February 2022

It’s a new era for mental health at work. It’s time to reframe or pre-established mental health in the workplace and start fostering an environment where employees feel motivated and cared for! Without mental health, there is no progress! So, what practical steps can you begin taking now to support mental health for employees? How can you make your mental health initiatives part of a more significant long-term plan?  

Why Should Companies Care About Mental Health?

Two special conditions put mental health conditions in the spotlight this 2022. The first one is that our work schedule and lives have drastically changed in a short period due to the pandemic. Employees are now more prone to irregular work hours, instability in the workplace, the responsibility workload, and sometimes- isolation or loneliness (especially if working from home). Depression causes an estimated 200 million lost workdays each year at the cost of $17 billion to $44 billion to employers, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). 

The second variable here is what academics call the “Pandemic Brain.” According to Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post, which is a mix of technology overload, lack of focus, and stress we’ve felt these past two years. Our cognitive systems are left feeling constant pressure, even when the stressor leaves. It seems like our minds are trying to replicate productivity and speed like a machine, but we still experience pre-historic sensations and impulses. 

Today there is an unprecedented awareness about the importance of caring for our mental health in our workplace. Still, according to studies from Cambridge’s Journal of Psychological Medicine, employees often have a hard time admitting when they need help, and most importantly, when it comes to seeking help. This is usually because of public stigma or shame and embarrassment when exposing their vulnerability. So how can we start opening the way to building a rich environment and finally treating these mental health challenges in the workplace?

How to Start Mental Health Initiatives at Work?

Providing your employees with a mental-health day per year or a free app to work out from home isn’t enough. All mental health initiatives in the workplace should be part of a bigger plan to build a sustainable and mentally healthy environment. These can’t be sporadic actions on your behalf. They should all be meaningful and purpose-driven

The first step to coming up with and incorporating a solid set of mental health initiatives is to gather helpful information about your employee’s mental health. First, do some research regarding demographics, identity, and your industry. Then, ask them how they’re feeling, what they’re experiencing, and how they cope.

Here’s how you can do your research about the mental health status in the workplace: 

  1. Send your employees a confidential survey where they can sincerely express how they’re feeling and how you as an employer can help them navigate through it. 

  2. Incorporate quarterly one-on-ones or group huddles where employees feel safe and openly communicate. Take notes and use this information to know what areas need improvement. 

Workplace Mental Health Initiatives for Employees & How to Apply Them

A young business owner stands in his desk trying to face mental health challenges

1. Train your executive team to prioritize their team’s mental health 

The pressure that the executive team often feels regarding performance and results is often passed on to their team members, creating a stressful work environment. Instead, mentor your leadership team to lead through encouragement, not fear. The productivity and motivation levels will only increase if employees feel understood and that a leader is rooting them on to meet goals. In addition, leaders should not be afraid to start difficult conversations, open up, and occasionally share vulnerabilities. 

Steps to train your executive team to care for your team’s mental health:

  1. Organize workshops or mentoring classes to train your executive team on mental health. According to Erns & Young’s latest mental health survey for leaders, only 25% of managers have received this type of training. 

  2. Call out unethical and toxic mental health behaviors from superiors. Identify and take corrective measures if necessary.

  3. Encourage your executive team to host monthly one-on-ones so that their team members can openly share experiences and contribute with feedback. 

  4. Teach your executive team to reward and recognize performance, improvements, and healthy habits, 65% of North Americans report that they weren’t recognized even once last year.

2. Incentivize community outreach and volunteering programs. 

Nurture empathy and kindness within and outside your company motivating your employees to connect with their community. According to a survey by Project Helping 96% of volunteers claim that they feel more purpose-driven, and happier after regularly helping their community. Community outreach and volunteering are great ways to bring happiness self-worth into the lives of your employees

Steps to incentivize community outreach and volunteering

  1. Organize monthly community outreach activities for your employees

  2. Include pictures, videos, or stories about employees’ volunteering experiences in emails, boards, or company spaces. 

  3. Reward employees that help others inside and outside the workplace. 

  4. Set alliances with community outreach institutions that share your values.

3. Teach your employees how to set boundaries. 

You can incorporate countless positive mental health initiatives but still overwork your employees into a toxic environment. Ensure that you and your leadership team respect each employee’s time away from work to avoid burnout or a hostile work environment. 

Steps to teach your employees how to set healthy boundaries around their work schedule: 

  1. Teach employees about time management and check on their progress regarding projects. 

  2. Respect employees’ time away from work. Avoid calls, messages, and emails after hours. 

  3. Incentivize employees to take time away from work, vacation, and even technology detox. 

  4. Incorporate quick “stretch” sessions where employees must take 10-15 minutes to gain body awareness and leave their desks. 

4. Create a purpose-driven environment and sense of belonging through company culture. 

Instead of incentivizing a work environment where employees feel that they must constantly seek approval or fit in, bring in values of self-acceptance and honesty.

You can create this sense of community in the workplace by aligning your team members to work together for a collective and individual cause—set routines and new healthy habits to connect with your employees with meaning. Make them feel that there is purpose and meaning in their actions.

Steps to create a purpose-driven environment and sense of belonging through company culture:

  1. Organize brainstorming sessions where employees can contribute with new perspectives and ideas, no matter their role in the company. 

  2. Offer programs, classes, or workshops to help employees acquire the knowledge or skills they need to succeed. 

  3. Create spaces where employees can demonstrate their vulnerability regarding grief, anxiety, and even fear and share their perspectives and experiences. 

  4. Share movies, books, and music that aligns with your purpose, values, and even current projects. Nurture culture inside and outside of the workplace. 

  5. 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.

Invest in Mental Health Initiatives in Your Business.

There are countless ways to invest in mental health care initiatives for your employees. After thinking of a long-term plan that can help cultivate a great work environment, executing is often the hardest part. If you think all these initiatives are well suited for your business, then start applying them! You might need the help of a mental health expert, counselor, or human resource specialist to help you follow through. Don’t put investing in these initiatives on hold when you can get easy access to working capital.

One Park Financial programs are perfect for business owners that need funding to resolve their day-to-day. If you have been in business for three months or more and that generates at least $7,500 in monthly revenue, then this might be the right funding program for you. Check if you pre-qualify in minutes here. Start contributing to your employee’s mental health today.