Prioritizing Mental Health At Work
Why is it important to understand and recognize mental health issues at work? So businesses can look after their staff. Plus, productivity takes a hit when mental health issues are not managed appropriately, so there’s ample motivation for businesses to take mental health issues seriously.
We all need support when we’re not in peak mental health, and since the pandemic, managing mental health in the workplace has been more critical than ever.
Employees deal with significant stress when concerned about contracting the coronavirus and working more hours to accommodate the increased demand for certain services. When employees feel overwhelmed with stress and burnout, they’re less likely to perform at a high level and be engaged with their work.
Dealing With Stress
What can employers do to combat the challenge of stress and burnout?
The immediate solution is to offer their workers mental health support. Doing so will show employees that you care about their well-being and allow them to get help and support with any issues they have at work.
Businesses providing emotional support when an employee is dealing with personal problems at home or have work-related issues can prevent a manageable situation from turning into something that requires longer-term professional solutions.
In this post, we’ll discuss why it’s so important to have someone who understands mental health problems so that employees feel supported, cared for, and understood.
Mental Health Support At Work
Why should every workplace have someone employees can turn to about mental health?
If you want to support your employees’ mental health and well-being, it’s good practice to have someone on your team who understands and is experienced in dealing with different mental health issues and concerns. This can be a counselor, a manager, or even a team member with a mental health background.
When employees have someone to turn to when faced with an issue, they feel more valued and may have peace of mind knowing someone is available if they ever need help.
In the workplace, it’s common to leave personal issues, emotions, and feelings at home. Everyone is expected to be professional.
However, this isn’t always feasible, and the pandemic is proof of that. At the height of the pandemic, many lost loved ones to the disease.
People who weren’t being laid off from their jobs had to go to work with their minds and hearts heavy, working long, arduous hours. Workers were getting burnt out. Their mental health was negatively affected, which in turn impacted their performance on the job.
This even led to some workers quitting, leading to the Great Resignation. What did many employers do to respond? They started prioritizing employee mental health and well-being to attract and retain top talent.
This is not to say that mental health support wasn’t already in place before the pandemic. Still, now more than ever, employers are implementing programs that support employees’ mental well-being.
However, employers must go beyond programs to ensure employees are doing well mentally. It all comes down to having people employees can turn to. These people should have credentials that show they’re competent in offering mental health support and helping employees cope with mental health issues.
Whether a worker is dealing with a personal issue at home, suffering from a pre-existing mental health condition, or facing a problem at work, they can go to a person trained to deal with these matters.
The HR department may be able to take on these types of issues. Still, they’re not trained in dealing with employee mental health issues, so having trained professionals available can be beneficial.
These specialists are trained to stay alert for performance problems that could reveal a mental health need. When employees talk openly about a personal problem, managers can step in to suggest turning to a person who’s trained to help with these specific issues.
Absenteeism – lost workdays
What are the effects of mental health issues at work?
What happens when there’s no trained help available to support employees’ mental well-being? Many things can go wrong. One significant effect of poor mental health is not showing up for work. According to SHRM, mental illness costs more lost workdays than some physical conditions, including:
- Back pain
- Heart disease
Mental Health Comes First
The conditions mentioned here can happen to anyone so if you’re experiencing one or more of them now, seek to understand the cause as it may be related to your mental health or something else. Prioritizing employee mental health is a must for organizations so causes can be identified and dealt with as soon as possible.
As an employer, it’s essential to prioritize employees’ mental well-being. This means employee mental health comes first before anything. Increasing profits and revenue come next because a business likely won’t be successful if its employees aren’t taken care of.
Employees must feel mentally and emotionally secure to perform well and be engaged with their work. Otherwise, they won’t be able to fully focus on getting work done.
Signs Your Mental Health Policies Need Improvement
Let’s consider how you’ll know your mental health focus needs improvement.
Inadequate health and safety policies
When an employer’s health and safety policies aren’t up to par, employees feel undervalued, their needs aren’t met, and their health and safety aren’t prioritized. For example, employees may have to deal with hazardous materials or poorly managed equipment or work in an overcrowded, poorly lit, unventilated, or unsanitary environment. If your workers are dealing with those problems, their mental health may be affected.
Poor communication and management practices
Employers who fail to communicate with their workers and aren’t transparent about every aspect of the job often fail to build trust and strong relationships with their employees. On the other hand, effective communication does quite the opposite. It makes employees more comfortable with communicating their own concerns and questions. As a result, employees are more likely to come to their manager with any issues they deal with at work and home. This can positively impact their mental health.
Low levels of support for employees
Managers who don’t offer employees resources can lead to workers feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. This is why it’s essential to support employees when tackling complex tasks and specific issues instead of expecting them to figure it out themselves.
When employees are under a lot of pressure to perform at excessive levels, it can lead to unnecessary strain, causing their mental health to suffer. When employees have a large workload and numerous hours, added stress, and emotional exhaustion, not only will there be a decrease in productivity, but they’ll also suffer from an overwhelmed feeling that makes them feel like they’ll never get a break.
Employees worried about losing their jobs may suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The fear of being unable to pay bills and care for their families can seriously affect their mental health and well-being.
Employees with personal issues at home
It’s common practice for organizations to expect employees to leave their personal problems at home. This makes sense because personal issues can create distractions and affect work performance.
But what if those personal issues can’t be left at home? What if these problems affect employees so much that they must also be addressed at work? Unfortunately, some companies don’t prioritize employee mental health in this respect, and workers are forced to work through their problems without support from their employers.
Due to this issue, having someone with a background in mental health that employees can turn to can be highly beneficial. That way, employees can still come to work and get the support they need when facing complex problems at home.
Even if workers don’t express the exact issues they’re facing and want to keep their personal lives private, they can share that their mental health and performance are affected. This is where employers can step in and offer resources to help workers feel supported and comforted.
Whether an employee is dealing with an anxiety disorder, suffering from depression, or simply feeling overwhelmed, their work performance can suffer. They may feel distracted when dealing with their mental health issues and have difficulty focusing on work. Mental illness may also increase absenteeism, so employees may not even show up for work.
Other job performance factors may be negatively impacted by poor mental health, such as:
- Engagement with work
- Communication with coworkers
- Physical capability and daily functioning
- Social avoidance
Mental Health Improvement Tips
Now that you understand the importance of staying on top of employees’ mental well-being, the next step is to offer support. Beyond having a mental health support person available for employees to talk to, there are other measures you can take to protect the mental health of your workers.
Looking for ways to support employees mentally can help them learn the signs of mental health conditions. This way, you can catch potential issues before they become more significant problems. This might involve training on the most common symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Another way to look out for potential signs is to encourage managers to look at patterns of performance and attendance. After identifying potentially high-risk employees, you can provide aid with an employee assistance program (EAP).
These programs are designed to identify and help employees solve personal issues that can negatively affect their performance at work.
EAPs often involve professionals such as psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to support employees in need. An MSN-PMHNP program at Marymount University or the equivalent from another educational institution gives these professionals the credentials to help workers suffering from a wide range of mental health disorders.
Create a stigma-free workplace to make employees feel comfortable coming to you with mental health issues. Follow these tips to fight the stigma around mental health illness at your organization:
- Educate employees about common mental health conditions
- Create a sense of belonging and community that makes employees feel comfortable enough to talk about stress, workload, family commitments, and other issues
- Discourage stigmatizing language
- Invest in mental health benefits
- Create awareness
Another way to make your workplace a positive workplace is to create awareness around mental illness and encourage team members to look out for each other.
You can also develop an educational program that encourages employees to reach out to co-workers who appear to be emotionally distressed.
Instilling a sense of nurture and concern into employees allows them to offer help when they see one of their colleagues need support. In a workplace that fosters mental health awareness, employees shouldn’t think twice about offering to help others when they need it.
Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees. Use online systems and apps for privacy.
Not everyone will feel comfortable sharing their personal issues with others, no matter how open and transparent a work environment you’ve created.
In this case, you can offer employees mental health self-assessment tools that will allow them to recognize if potential help or resources are needed. Employees can assess potential mental health concerns through a work-life balance questionnaire or a mood assessment checklist.
Improve Work-Life Balance
Whether you or another co-worker notices an employee needs support, taking steps to accommodate them can go a long way. These accommodations might include reducing work hours, giving them the flexibility to work from home, or changing their duties.
Although offering accommodations allows employees to still be productive, it also gives them the flexibility to adapt to their needs. Not every employee can handle the everyday work tasks and workloads other workers can take on. It’s critical to recognize that in the workplace.
Dedicated Support and Counseling
Supporting the mental health of your employees will include providing an EAP that offers free counseling to employees and having a support person available who can provide mental health services. The key to getting your business’s mental health processes right is to appreciate it is a work in progress. Everyone is learning how to perfect their workplace and company culture.
Start your mental health process improvement by being open and transparent on hiring processes and role requirements. Work on providing the right resources, education, and tools to get your employees on track to mental wellness.
Remember, a happy employee is a happy employer. Work continuously on actions that drive job satisfaction and exceptional performance. 🙂
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