Unaddressed mental health concerns are a fast growing cause of lost productivity (presenteeism) and absence (absenteeism) among workforces.

According to a report released by the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA), distressed workers spend one-third of their work day being unproductive and are out sick an average of one work day a month. Further findings from the EAPA showed that common causes of loss of concentration, motivation, and productivity were related to mental health, such as anxiety, depression, or personal stress (40%) and work and occupational issues (18%).

Given how much of people’s lives are spent at work, it’s important for organizations to take an active role in helping their people improve their mental wellbeing. While companies do not hold direct responsibility for the health of their employees, employers are expected to uphold a “duty of care” by paying serious attention to mental health challenges and providing their people with a supportive workplace.

Mental health should be given the same significance as physical health. As with all health matters, early intervention and prevention is key. By spotting early signs of stress and distress and being proactive in providing support through an engaged, safe, and trusting work environment, your people will be kept well and thus work well, leading to lower burnout and absences, increased engagement, and improved wellbeing.

Mitigate mental health issues by providing support

Here are some considerations your organization can take to improve wellbeing and balance in the workplace as a way of proactively supporting employee mental health.

  • Adjust working conditions to accommodate an office atmosphere that reduces stress. Such considerations include instilling an open door policy with leadership, providing opportunities for play, from ping-pong tables typical in tech startups to puzzles, and  offerings wellness perks such as yoga classes and massages during lunch hours.
  • Encourage work-life balance through benefits such as subsidies for health and fitness expenses, flexible work arrangements, personal days, and implementing rules to leave work at work, such as not answering emails outside of office hours.
  • In addition to putting care into their work, your people need time to put care into other important areas of their life. With generous paid leave policies for parental leave for caregivers and paid leave for care-takers, employees will be able to take time off to meet any kind of carer responsibility, alleviating that source of stress in their lives.
  • Employees cannot perform at their best if they’re constantly worrying about money. By providing financial security through a salary reflective of their value, and additional perks such as offering financial advice and budgeting tips, your employees will be set up for financial success.
  • There are strong links between employee engagement and workplace wellbeing. Companies would do well to offer training and development opportunities to their employees to upskill and learn. This will make them feel valued, empowered, and more willing to invest their time and energy into your company mission.
  • Instill mental health training and advocates in your office. Because of misunderstandings due to lack of mental health education, there are many myths and stigmas associated with mental health conditions. To remedy that, workplaces can invest in engaging their team in discussions around mental health through participation in a mental health first-aid course, and equipping your leaders and managers with tips to handle situations.

Build a trusting relationship with your employees

While conversations around mental health are becoming more normalized in the workplace, but there is still hesitation for employees to open up. Because of this, companies need to create more open lines of communication with their people.

To start, establish regular one-on-one check-ins between managers and reports, so that your people can have a forum to discuss their feelings towards work, their workloads, and any lingering issues related to any work stress they’re experiencing. This time can help leaders monitor any developing issues so that they can act to offer confidential support and resources and alleviate stress.

There are also life events and personal matters which may affect the mental wellbeing of your employees, such as bereavements, divorces, and family issues can cause significant emotional distress for people, which will have an impact at work. Offering support to your team member during this time can have significant benefits.

Over to you

Companies need to be more proactive in monitoring and addressing employee mental health and wellness. By taking steps to establishing mentally healthy workplaces, your team members will feel comfortable in “bringing their whole selves” to work.

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