It’s time for employers to start taking responsibility for their part in the American mental health crisis.
Let’s be clear: I don’t mean employers should assume blame for the dangerously high occurrence of mental illness in our country. But when one out of every five American adults experiences mental illness each year, our society as a whole needs to start making changes. Lean startups and Fortune 500 enterprises alike need to start taking responsibility for promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Your company likely already has some kind of wellness initiative in place. Perhaps, you have an entire health and wellness program run by your hardworking HR department. But how many of those benefits apply directly to mental and emotional health? And how do your other handbook policies help—or hinder—those who need additional support?
The three tips below can help your company take immediate action and offer support to employees who need it. They will help you examine your operational procedures at a deeper level and find new ways to support your employees’ mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. With these tips as a starting place, you can show your employees how much you truly care about their wellbeing.
1. Manage with emotional intelligence
Many managers still believe that emotions have no place in the office. But consider this:
Based on the average 45-hour workweek, your employees spend 2,250 hours in your office each year, not including commute time. That comprises 40% of their waking hours. Can you really expect your team members to not experience or process their emotions 40% of the time? Companies seeking to promote mental and emotional wellness should reconsider that dated policy and pursue a more balanced approach to conflict resolution.
Enlightened managers understand that the workplace is full of emotion—particularly where conflict is concerned. Giving your managers extensive emotional intelligence training can arm them with the tools and techniques they need to manage effectively while allowing emotions to have their rightful consideration in the workplace. This is the kind of long-term solution that makes a big investment in the future wellbeing of your entire staff.
In the short-term, you can start managing your employees’ emotional needs through inexpensive but effective in-office perks.
For starters, try providing calming services during tough times. Offer employees a free in-house yoga class one day a week during the regular workday. Bring in a chair massage therapist every Friday during the busiest month of your company’s fiscal year. Or, temporarily transform a large conference room into a peaceful quiet space for meditation, deep breathing, or mid-morning naps. In the long-term, consider offering mental health days to allow employees to rest, recuperate, and return to work with renewed enthusiasm. You might be surprised how much your employees appreciate emotionally intelligent perks like these, and how much positive feedback they give you in return. When you offer benefits that employees value most, you can inspire lasting loyalty and retention.
2. Increase schedule flexibility
Most employers would agree that if 20% of their workforce stood in their office needing mental health treatment, they would prefer those employees to take the time they need to receive treatment and achieve a higher level of baseline wellness. Yet, the irony persists. Most companies don’t offer the flexibility employees actually need to take advantage of these services on a weekly, or even monthly, basis.
Therapy appointments and medication checks with a psychiatrist take time—time that’s only available during business hours. Most employees who need these services end up forgoing treatment or taking that time from their dwindling PTO stash.
A more lenient WFH or flex time policy opens the door for your employees to address these and other health-related concerns while still getting their daily work done. Research indicates that employees actually reach even higher levels of productivity when their wellbeing is prioritized. By letting your team members flex their schedules, you’re encouraging them to get more rest when they need it. To spend more quality time with their families on special days. And to actually start taking care of their health.
When you look at it that way, flexible scheduling isn’t just a fringe benefit. For some, it’s the difference between being able to work and being able to maintain their mental and physical health. We can’t advocate for this policy strongly enough. This is perhaps the biggest and most important change companies can make to promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
3. Create a positive company culture
Finally, it’s time to address the number one culprit of mental strain at work: burnout. Professional burnout is usually understood as the chronic exhaustion (and related symptoms) that occurs when the effort we give to our career far outweighs the benefit we receive.
Stress reduction is a popularly-touted “fix” for burnout, but may not actually be enough to relieve the symptoms. Instead, research shows that raising one’s sense of accomplishment might significantly relieve burnout over time. In a sense, this adds more weight to the rewards side of the “effort/benefit” scale outlined above. An increase in accomplishments makes a career inherently more “worth it” for employees.
One way to increase the sense of accomplishment your employees feel is to create a culture of appreciation and recognition within your organization. And the best way to help your employees feel appreciated for their hard work is to implement a powerful employee recognition program.
If you’ve already got an incentive program in place, do a thorough evaluation to determine if it’s really working for you and living up to a positive ROI. If not, start by setting a new series of measurable, achievable goals for each and every role in your company. Then, it’s up to you to provide valuable rewards at every step of the way—or to partner with an employee rewards company who can take over.
The best employee recognition programs ensure all of your employees—not just your top performers—feel a deep sense of job satisfaction at your company. Your employees will feel more engaged, more motivated, and more appreciated. And when they’re spending over 2,000 hours each year under your roof, that outcome is absolutely critical for the mental health of your organization and the individuals you’re working with.
When employers start promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, powerful changes occur. Employees who struggle with mental health issues will feel more supported and find themselves better able to address their personal needs. Your entire team will become more compassionate. Your managers will care more about their reports’ wellbeing than their productive output. And with a focus on building mental health in the workplace, your company only has room to grow and profit from these incredibly positive changes.
At Inproma, we’re dedicated to helping employees love coming to work every single day. We achieve this goal by crafting fully custom employee incentive and recognition programs that help your employees work harder and feel better at their jobs. Want to discover the best incentive program for your company? Let’s talk.