Provide Access To Help
If you can afford to, provide access to professional mental health support and counseling in the workplace. Thanks to a variety of startups, mental health solutions have become more creative and affordable. And as insurers realize the value of prevention over treatment, many health insurance companies now offer some kind of employee mental health coverage at reasonable costs. Just remember, simply having an open wellness program in your workplace might be enough for employees, and at zero cost to you.
If you can’t afford paid mental wellness solutions or coverage for your employees, think about providing access to many of the free services that are now available. There are plenty of free resources (listed in our Resources section) that will help you get a wellness plan up and running in the workplace. Some resources are as simple as downloads and guides, others offer comprehensive training, assessment, and therapeutic tools at no cost. And if you have employees in a mental health crisis, we’ve also included a variety of free professional hotlines available 24/7.
Have Regular Mental Health Days And Discussions
You probably weren’t aware that October 10th every year is World Mental Health Day, a chance to recognize those who suffer from mental illness, as well as those who help and support them. And also an opportunity to shine a light on a global issue. But mental health in the workplace doesn’t have to be celebrated just one day a year. If you accept that an investment in mental health for your employees can produce some very tangible returns, then more is better. It’s entirely up to each workplace, but I would suggest devoting at least one day each quarter to the topic, and as many regular but more informal discussions as you think your workforce can bear.
You’ve heard it before, that sunlight can be a great disinfectant. Shining a light and lending an ear are amongst the more powerful therapies.
Recognize The Stressors
We all have “things” or triggers that can increase stress and anxiety, but for those struggling with mental illness, those triggers can be harder to manage. Common stressors in the workplace can include a workload that feels overwhelming, time management challenges, ongoing conflicts with co-workers, bullying, and being judged or criticized. By understanding what the most common stressors might be for employees, teaching co-workers and managers how to recognize those stressors, and creating a work environment that can help avoid those stressors, all help to reduce the long-term impact on employees.
Create More Flexible Work Options
Offering more flexible and creative work options could provide significant mental health benefits to all employees. Flex work can improve freedom and autonomy, increase self-confidence and belief, reduce stressors, make work easier to manage and make the workplace easier to look forward to. It could also mean more time with family, less time commuting, less time and resource wasting and better productivity.
Flexible work options to help reduce workplace stressors could include things like the option of working alone instead of in a team, working in a smaller team instead of a larger team (or a larger team instead of a smaller one), working from home more often, coming in earlier and leaving earlier (perhaps to reduce commute times), work or task sharing, allowing employees to choose who they’d prefer to work with, and making projects results-focused instead of time or “attendance” based.
Think About Telecommuting Options
No one likes long or exhausting daily work commutes. Longer commutes have been shown to harm those already suffering from depression, often increasing depression and anxiety by as much as 30%. It may be because longer commutes increase stress, gives employees more time to worry about common stressors, gives them more time to dread work, gives them less time to spend with family, increases worries about missed meetings and lost productivity, and can impact physical health too.
And recognizing that absenteeism rates are typically higher for employees suffering from mental illness, a study by VU University in Amsterdam found that longer commutes can increase absenteeism by about 16%.
Address Workplace Bullying
A study from the University of Phoenix suggested that 75% of employees have been impacted by workplace bullying. Which means it’s probably happening to some degree in most workplaces. Other studies have shown that workplace bullying can create a downward mental health cycle. The more stressed, anxious, and depressed victims become, the more likely they are to be targeted for abuse and the less able they are to stand up to abuse. A simple way to anonymously report bullying in the workplace, combined with employee education about the signs and impact, could help address this risk.