Making mental health a priority is good business sense

Disruptions in work spaces. Employees going through life changes. Nuances in company culture. Sound familiar? The mindset and perspective of employees has shifted in the past few years, making mental health initiatives a priority. Whether your team’s in the office or at home, they keep the company running. Making mental health a priority? Here’s why it makes sense.

From being displaced, watching people become displaced, experiencing personal and professional losses, or shifting their careers, there have been a lot of challenges to overcome. As an employer, you must recognize these challenges and make a concerted effort to show empathy and understanding. This fortifies the organization and creates a culture where employees come first. Checking in on those employees is the first step in gaining their trust.

Is employee mental health that serious?

It is. Unfortunately, 75% of HR professionals don’t consider the well-being of employees and their mental health as a top priority. That means many companies are neglecting what could become a firestorm if not addressed.

Stress, depression, and worrying about what’s next in the pipeline as it relates to unforeseen disasters and basic living needs are high on the list of factors affecting employees. Your HR team should be working with management to create an environment where employees and their mental health is important to themselves and their families, and to show up as their best selves for work.

How to support employees and their mental health:

The needs of each employee are different, but there are ways to address everyone from a high-level standpoint. Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) helps the company with well-care initiatives and employees with specific needs. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Have a conversation
    You shouldn’t be afraid to have mental health discussions with employees. Whether it’s as a group during a team meeting or 1:1 between manager and employee, they need to feel that their mental health is important. Ask employees if they need additional support and use the feedback to develop a system where active listening and taking action are a priority.
  • Mental health days
    Taking off from work used to be taboo prior to the pandemic, but with so much going on, employees need to know they can take a day off to handle business or just get away from it all. Employees should never feel as if they will have repercussions for taking leave if it’s approved. It’s never a good thing to learn after the fact that an employee was going through hard times and couldn’t address their needs because they didn’t have someone available to cover for them or felt as if they would be reprimanded. Work-life balance is just as important as doing a good job.
  • Be flexible
    Flexibility is important for you as an employer, and for employees. Tapping into your empathetic side not only shows that you care but understand how life situations have changed. Some employees may not feel comfortable returning to an office environment, while others welcome it. Some have special arrangements for their children where they now need the flexibility to do something different. Flextime and hybrid options help increase productivity, heightens morale, and. empowers employees to do what’s best for them while they get their work done. In this era of digital transformation, flexible work arrangements are very attractive to new talent seeking employment.
  • Make wellness a priority
    Engaging employees creates a standard where investing in wellness programs and mental health training have happier teams because they are more aware, have a better understanding and are equipped with the tools to support each other in their mental health. This allows team members to assist in facilitating mental health assistance if needed.
  • Shift the narrative
    Healthy cultures have happy employees. Shifting the narrative to one of “we’re all in this together” instead of “everyone is on their own” helps employees avoid burnout, become trusting of the management team and are more productive and engaged with the organization. The goal is to have an environment where “not being okay” doesn’t ostracize your employees but has the opposite effect, where everyone from the top-down rallies around them.
  • Integrative Management
    Your leaders of the organization should be front and center leading the charge. This means they should be encouraging breaks, being more hands on with employees, setting good examples to follow and demonstrating that they are people too.

Successfully navigating the nuances of mental health within your organization may be challenging, but it is well worth the time and effort to implement and execute initiatives that not only embrace good mental health but empowers employees to put self-care first.