3 Ways to Promote Better Mental Health in the Workplace

The state of our collective mental health is not good.

People across the U.S. were struggling with mental health concerns before the

pandemic, but the isolation, uncertainty, economic instability, and fear we’ve all experienced have brought the issue to the forefront.

Employees naturally bring the stressors of life into the workplace with them. Which is why today’s workplaces have a bigger role to play in helping employees better manage their mental health. And it’s not necessarily about adding more mental health benefits or apps.

So how can employers help?

Here are three ways employers can “lean in” to support employee mental health:

1. Provide benefits that care for the whole employee.

Traditional benefits like health care and 401(k) plans are important, but employees also need help with:

  • Caregiving—Think onsite childcare, back-up childcare, parental leave for both parents, phased transitions back to work for new mothers, etc.
  • Finances—Financial concerns are cited as one of the most common causes of employee stress. Financial wellness programs that help employees manage debt or create a budget can take the weight off.
  • Time off—Sadly, American workers just don’t take enough time off. Some employers now mandate company-wide time off; others offer unlimited PTO, volunteer time off, sabbaticals, and caregiving leave to encourage employees to decompress.

2. Make changes to workplace culture.

Experts agree that a huge source of employee stress comes from the unwritten rules that make up workplace culture. Set the tone for a more “human-centered” workplace by giving employees:

  • Flexibility—The freedom to set working hours that work best for their own productivity and the demands of home and family is the number one “job perk” employees want today. This also includes the flexibility to work remotely or in a hybrid model.
  • Permission to put up “work boundaries”—Allow employees to set clear expectations for working hours, dictate when they will respond to email, and schedule time off during the day for exercise, meditation, or to attend a family event. Encourage employees to note these in their email signatures or out-of-office notifications.

3. Promote the mental health benefits you already offer.

If you work for a large company, chances are good that your company already offers benefits to help with mental health, like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or stress management classes. You may simply need better packaging and promotion to get employees to take advantage of these resources.

Some tactics to consider:

  • Identify mental health champions in the organization to get the conversation going on workplace social media about mental health and the benefits the company offers.

Regularly promote mental health benefits in e-newsletters, town halls, and on the intranet.

  • Host events, webinars, and guest speakers in conjunction with May’s Mental Health Awareness Month or World Mental Health Day on October 10.
  • Spotlight mental health resources during annual enrollment when employees are already focused on their benefits.
  • Utilize video testimonials. Storytelling is a great way to encourage employees to share their good experiences with the EAP and other mental health benefits.

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Employees are much more vocal these days about the need for a work culture that supports their mental health and holistic well-being. In fact, many are prepared to leave their current employer for one who offers these benefits. So instead of thinking about the cost of adding new offerings to a benefits package, employers would do well to consider the long-term cost of turnover and employee engagement.

If you’d like some help thinking through how you can promote better mental health in your organization, contact us.