Mental health is an important part of every employee's well-being and should be a top priority in all workplaces. Many employees have reported an increase in mental health symptoms at work since 2020, which has led to self-fears and worries, resulting in low productivity.
While mental health was not a commonly discussed subject, the events of the pandemic brought it to the fore. And not surprisingly so, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a considerable increase in the number of anxious, nervous, or depressed workers owing to a sense of isolation caused by remote work, job insecurity, and health care. The upside is that people have become more considerate about mental health and treat it as real, diagnosable, and treatable illnesses that require attention just like any physical condition.
Mental health is very individualised and has always remained as a challenge to create a realistic mental health culture that satisfies all employees’ needs. Mental health programs must be diversified and measured in order to generate positive change. And, organisations and human resource teams need to create a culture within the organisation that is safe, empathetic and supports the needs of every employee. Here are few things that companies can focus on for better management of mental health requirements:
Develop policies for a safe, inclusive, and equal culture
The culture of your organisation consists of its values, expectations, and practices, each of which sets the tone for how employees perceive, engage with, and follow leaders. The policies you create will serve as the foundation for how your entire organisation will interact with its customers, vendors, and employees. When policies create a safe, inclusive, and equal culture throughout your organisation, it improves health in all areas, including your team's mental health and the performance of your company.
Educate leaders on the signs of mental health conditions
In the hierarchy of the workplace, managers are closest to the workers and are a helping arm in recognising signs of mental health conditions in employees. They can be trained to identify the most common symptoms of depression and anxiety. To support this task, many digital health tools are now available to help measure the behavioural pulse of the workplace and to empower employees to better understand their own health and ensure a better, personalised health and wellbeing experience.
Offer resources, training sessions
When it is known that employees are suffering from mental health issues, organisations can then provide aid with an employee assistance program. It is even more effective if this aid can be provided as a preventive measure even before the mental health issues arise. For example, to help employees improve their coping skills, organisations can offer therapy and health solutions, information about mental health services, etc. Organisations should also promote both physical and emotional wellness by implementing wellness programs that prioritise physical exercise. For example, it is proven that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression.
One best practice introduced by many organisations is wellness days/no meeting days to help their employees focus and prioritise their work effectively. Sessions offering tips on nutritional science, breathing techniques, yoga, immunity, mental resilience, etc are part of such days, as are counselling sessions to assist employees and their family members.
Be respectful to each team member
Respect is one of the most overlooked factors in promoting team mental health. It's a simple concept that often gets ignored during times of stress and conflict. It can have a significant impact on a team member's mental health, especially when leadership is disrespectful. Respect should be not only encouraged, but also incorporated into a company's human resource code of conduct. Respecting all team members, regardless of their position in the organisational ladder, is critical.
Communicate frequently and consistently
Lack of information creates significant anxiety among team members, especially during uncertainty or crisis. Frequent and consistent communication from leaders via townhalls could be organised to curb stress and anxiety. One-on-one interactions/ sessions could be organised with every department to provide that human touch for your employees.
Introduce an employee assistance program (EAP)
Not every member of the team would want to share their concerns in a peer support group. If the concerns are personal in nature, there may be a preference for speaking with an outside, experienced therapist who provides complete anonymity. This is especially relevant for team members who are dealing with deeply personal issues that they believe may have an impact on their employment. To help team members focus and perform at their best, organisational senior leaders should implement an external employee assistance program (EAP).
This article was first published in October 2021.