5 ways employers can help improve employee mental health
In 2016, around 20% of US adults reported to having some form of mental illness, and over 70% said they had at least one symptom of stress. Over 60% of Americans are part of the US labor force, and while stress at work can be a trigger for mental illness, the workplace can also be a place where mental health issues can be addressed.
Unfortunately, less than a third of people diagnosed with a mental illness receive the treatment they need. If employees’ mental health needs are not met, it may cause their work life to suffer, leading to:
- Decreased productivity and performance
- Less effective communication with colleagues
- Worsening physical well-being
However, there are many steps you can take as an employer to improve mental health in the workplace.
Improve communication about resources offered
If your company offers a well-being program, be sure employees know about it, especially if that program also offers support in identifying mental health risks and connecting individuals into treatment. Let employees know the ways the program may also provide support for reducing and managing stress.
It is also essential to send regular emails and communications that help your population understand the physical and mental health benefits that your company provides. In these communications, encourage employees to take advantage of the services available. Send ongoing announcements, information, and tips about tools, apps, seminars, and coaching programs as they are available.
Encourage open conversations and support
When employees foster good relationships at work, it can help create an environment that prioritizes mental health. If they feel comfortable, you can even request that leaders share their mental health experiences with others. Leaders can make a large difference in reducing the stigma around the subject, and play an important role in normalizing the conversation about mental health.
Additionally, it is important to provide managers and people leaders with the resources they need to support their teams and encourage them to seek help if needed.
Promote the importance of physical health
Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand; when one suffers, the other is likely to as well. When individuals maintain their physical health, it can help improve their mental health. Communicate the importance of completing yearly biometric screenings and regular well-being checkups with employees so they understand their health risks and are empowered to take the time to improve their health.
Model stress-management techniques
Individuals who practice habits that help reduce and cope with stress also benefit their mental health. When leaders in the organization model these behaviors, it is easier for employees to adopt them as well.
Examples of key stress-management techniques include:
- Staying positive; if negative feelings come up in meetings or conversations, acknowledge them (whether they’re your feelings or someone else’s), but don’t dwell on them
- Showing gratitude by recognizing when employees are doing a good job and thanking them for their efforts
- Encouraging employees to build breaks for exercise, meditation, or yoga into their days, and be sure employees see you taking these breaks yourself
- Prioritizing your own stress management with breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques to help create a less-stressful environment
- Setting healthy boundaries for your work and personal life and encouraging employees to do the same
Think about the big picture
Your company may already require employees to set work-related goals, but consider setting “well-being goals” as a company as well. Having goals to work toward may help everyone keep mental and physical health at the forefront of their minds.
Additionally, ask employees to think beyond the day-to-day tasks of their jobs. Use newsletters, team meetings, and even casual conversations to share testimonials and point out how the work your employees do makes a difference in the lives of others (eg, through relationship building, services provided, helpful ideas, etc).
The workplace plays an important role in employee mental health, so be sure you are doing what you can to make mental health a priority at your workplace. It will make a difference in both the quality of work your employees produce, as well as the quality of their lives.
How Quest can help
Quest Diagnostics offers a suite of population health solutions for employers that address both physical and mental health conditions. All solutions offered by Quest are clinically based and help connect the right employees to the right care.
Contact us for more information about our solutions for employee health.