Mental health has become one of the most widely talked about topics across different platforms. This comes as more people around the world suffer from various mental health issues. More than one in ten people globally have a mental disorder. That’s about 792 million individuals across the globe. This number is expected to grow, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But despite the increasing awareness of mental health, certain workplaces fail to follow suit. With this, most employees now see work as their biggest mental stressor.
So how do you spot poor mental health at work?
It is quite difficult to detect the signs of poor mental health at work, especially during the early stages. But several studies have shown that productivity loss and poor attendance might indicate that your employee is suffering from a mental illness.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that workers with depression suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity in just three months. This is because they tend to lose their cognitive abilities at work, hindering them from functioning well. These workers will find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions, retain information, or participate in discussions.
Moreover, they also tend to take more time off work than their other colleagues. An average of 36 sick days or over a month of sick leaves per year are filed by just one employee due to mental health reasons. That’s equivalent to at least 10 million working days lost annually, which puts your business at risk of losing tons of money.
How do you protect your employees from poor mental health at work?
Fortunately, there are several ways that you can try to help your employees cope with workplace stress and promote mental health acceptance at work:
1. Identify the triggers and address them.
Heavy workload, low wages, and toxic boss or coworkers are some main psychological hazards rampant at work. Balancing your employee’s workload as well as introducing incentive programs can help reduce stress and increase productivity among your employees. Maintaining a positive work environment can also help you improve your relationship with your workers.
2. Create a safe, non-judgmental space for your employees to voice out their mental health concerns.
Not a lot of people are comfortable talking about their mental health, especially at work. Most employees fear being discriminated against once they disclose their true mental health state, especially to their higher-ups. Sadly, this happens in some workplaces. A 2018 report from the Business in the Community revealed that nearly 11% of workers who had disclosed their mental health issues faced certain disciplinary actions, demotion, or even dismissal from work.
As more people feel discouraged to discuss their mental struggles, more victims are being left untreated. Around 90% of Americans who are in most need of addiction recovery services or mental health assistance fail to receive it. This contributed to the spike of suicide rates among Americans over recent years.
3. Reshape the work culture by starting at the top.
Ensure that those in leadership roles must know how to identify concerns and provide mental health support as a response. This may be done by conducting training related to the subject. Also, encourage higher-ups to check in with their subordinates from time to time. This can make your employees feel accepted and valued at work, encouraging them to speak up more.
4. Provide diverse yet tailored solutions for mental health.
Mental health is a subjective experience. Hence, having a generic, band-aid solution in place will not be enough to effectively address poor mental health at work.
Try to come up with different mental health initiatives for your employees. Having free counseling sessions, creating avenues for peer-to-peer discussions, and conducting targeted workshops are some of the most effective options.
Also, make sure to proactively disseminate your programs across your organization. Launching internal email campaigns and having monthly townhalls may help.
5. Include mental health initiatives in budget planning.
Having well-being projects as part of your financial strategies will allow you to measure the effectiveness of your programs. You may see some positive effects in your investment returns, as well as in talent attraction and employee retention.
Also, publicizing your initiatives can further boost your credibility to your employees and even to clients and potential job seekers.
Business leaders like you are responsible for your staff’s well-being. Promoting mental health acceptance and investing in employee well-being initiatives at work can help boost productivity and morale among your workers. It may take a while to see the return of investment to your business, but it will be worth it.