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8 Ways to Expand Mental Health & Well-Being at Work

Diversify your organization's mental health resources and make your team's mental health the priority that it needs to be!

Nick Schurk

by Nick Schurk - March 23rd, 2023


As an HR leader, have you noticed increased conversations with employees expressing feelings of stress, overwhelm, and difficulty concentrating? You're not alone. Employee mental health has been on a downward trend in recent years, with the pandemic, news of mass layoffs, and ongoing financial worries only exacerbating the issue.

A recent study revealed that almost 31% of surveyed employees reported deteriorating mental health since 2021. Remarkably, 86% of workers experienced at least one mental health issue over the past year, yet only 33% received mental health care during the same period.

Employers are increasingly conscious of this issue. While 86% of businesses state that mental health and burnout prevention are top priorities, only 49% have an actionable plan to back this initiative.

If you're unaware, this concern is significant for your business. The financial impact of anxiety, stress, and burnout ranges between an astounding $125 to $190 billion in annual healthcare costs.

So, what measures can you take? This article explores practical strategies for improving mental health in the workplace and formulating plans for burnout prevention and intervention.

8 Ways Employers Can Improve Workplace Mental Health

Employers should direct their efforts towards prevention, beginning as early as the onboarding process when employees are still familiarizing themselves with the company culture. Mitigating the factors contributing to stress can reduce the probability of burnout. As a result, the World Economic Forum reports that employers get a return of $4 on every dollar invested in mental health care in the workplace.

1. Encourage Paid Time Off

Many employees avoid utilizing their sick or vacation days, fearing it might reflect negatively on their performance. Lack of clear communication around vacation policy can deter employees from taking mental health days.

Introduce the company's vacation policy as part of the onboarding package to assure employees that using their PTO is acceptable and expected.

Time-tracking software can help monitor time-off requests, balances, and approvals—without the need for spreadsheets. This allows you to review who has taken a vacation and who might need a nudge to schedule their next break.

2. Enact Mental Health Policies and Resources

Developing mental health policies and providing support resources are essential for workplace mental health and fostering a supportive environment. This goes beyond providing access ro critical services like counseling and psychiatry. Employers can offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), assisting employees in finding resources to manage mental health issues. Understand that not all resources involve expenses. Allowing employees time off for self-care motivates and recharges them.

Regularly highlight the resources available to employees through their health insurance and wellness programs.

Platforms like GoCo can simplify document management. Use this opportunity to underline additional wellness resources like fitness perks and financial wellness programs.

3. Support Diversity and Inclusion

Providing diverse, equitable, and inclusive mental health support is critical, as everyone's experiences are unique. Understanding these diverse experiences shows that employers recognize mental health as a vital aspect of overall well-being. 

Offering support tools that cater to varied mental health needs significantly improves overall mental health within the organization. Ensuring diversity and inclusion also creates a psychologically safe environment, empowering employees to thrive.

4. Provide Meaningful Job Descriptions

Surprisingly, a lack of clarity around role expectations significantly contributes to burnout. HR professionals can alleviate this confusion by using the onboarding process to explain these expectations clearly.

Helping employees understand their roles and contribution to the organization's goals. Include the job description in the onboarding package, automating this process through platforms like GoCo.

5. Provide Mental Health Days

According to a recent survey, 63% of employees have taken one or more mental health days in the past year. 44% of those employees felt they needed to lie to their employer because they worried they wouldn’t be allowed to take the day off or there would be other negative consequences. However, 78% of those who took a mental health day reported that it had a positive impact on their job performance.

By offering mental health days, employers can foster a wellness culture. These days are akin to sick days, allowing employees to take a break from work-related stress and focus on their mental well-being. This approach makes employees feel valued and supported, increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism.

6. Encourage Open Communication

Encouraging an open communication environment where employees can express their feelings without fear of judgment or retribution is beneficial. Accessible communication channels through HR can aid employees during stressful times. Encouraging management to listen actively when employees share feedback, and concerns fosters a culture of compassion and positivity.

GoCo offers team feedback features for employees and managers. Our Employee Timeline, available through the Performance Management feature, enables employees to write any notes, accomplishments, stressors, and progress alongside employment changes and performance documents to keep managers in the loop and track patterns. 

7. Create a Safe and Healthy Work Environment

Creating a safe and healthy work environment involves providing ergonomic workstations, regular cleaning and maintenance, proper lighting, and a comfortable working temperature. Such measures display the employer's commitment to the employees' well-being and safety, making them feel valued.

8. Lead by Example

Employers play a crucial role in creating a supportive environment. Merely creating mental health policies is insufficient; organizations should actively promote a mentally healthy workplace from the top down. This approach signifies that leaders genuinely care about their employees' well-being, ensuring everyone on the team feels supported. 

Leading by example demonstrates that mental health issues are being taken seriously – an excellent way to build trust within the organization.

Final Thoughts: Employer Must Take Action!

While positive mental health is crucial for employee well-being, it's equally essential for the success and sustainability of the organization. High levels of employee burnout can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and turnover, and, ultimately, a negative impact on the bottom line.

Hence, organizations must prioritize employee mental health and well-being. Employers can take action by providing resources and support for mental health issues, creating a positive and inclusive workplace culture, and promoting work-life balance and self-care practices.

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