In a recent survey, 91 percent of HR executives suggested that this past year was the hardest in their professional career, with a whopping 87 percent reporting that mental health is the most pressing “impact of the past year on the workforce.”
At this point, it seems obvious what is driving this “mental health tsunami.” The Covid-19 outbreak, and resulting months-long quarantine, was unprecedented and nothing that anyone could have anticipated nor prepared for. That said, those weeks and months spent in relative isolation certainly took a toll on mental health and it is up to companies to show their workers their support as they navigate these unchartered waters.
But before we dive in, let’s talk about why businesses should have a vested interest in supporting their employee’s mental health. In the survey referenced above, 93 percent of respondents felt that mental health directly affects businesses’ bottom lines. In fact, a 2019 survey showed that more than a third of respondents said that they have left a job due at least in part to mental health, with 59 percent naming it as the sole reason for their departure. On the flip side, treatment of depression has been shown to reduce absenteeism and improve performance by between 40 and 60 percent. Further, the National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that supporting mental health can lower your healthcare and disability costs since rates of metabolic and cardiovascular disease are as much as two-times higher in people with poor mental health.
With these factors at stake, below we outline just a few steps you can take to promote mental health in your workplace.
Make it part of your culture
As much as we’d like to pretend this isn’t the case, mental health remains a taboo topic, especially when it comes to discussions in the workplace. To ensure that it doesn’t become the elephant in the room, train your managers on how to recognize the signs of mental health issues and provide training to help them broach the topic with their employees in a way that is safe, useful, and legal. Further, executives and other higher ups should be sure to mention mental health as part of the culture of the company and recognize the importance of building a strong and resilient workforce that feels supported and appreciated.
Make it a perk
Really show your employees that you mean business when it comes to taking care of their wellbeing by offering coverage for mental health conditions, including substance use disorders. In order to ensure that you’re nailing down a comprehensive plan, be sure to check how many psychologists and psychiatrists are in-network for you – since finding a good fit can mean talking to a number of providers – and consider offering a health savings account (HSA) to help offset the cost of copays and medication.
Make it easier to access
In recent years, employees have been establishing employee assistance programs (EAPs), which seek to support workplace mental health by easily connecting workers to a professional who can assess their mental health and help develop a plan to ensure that their needs are met (see our blog on the topic here). In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting surge in mental health struggles, we recommend that you take steps to really promote your EAP and make sure that workers are aware of when, why, how, and who can access these services (hint: It’s broader than they likely think!) Send out a company-wide email, include it in a newsletter, or simply make it front and center in your next open enrollment promotion – whatever it takes to get the message out and get folks motivated to participate.
Make it a part of your business
If you really want to show employees that you care about their mental health, you’ll have to change the culture of your company to prove it. In survey after survey, employees have stated that on-the-job flexibility would be a game-changer in terms of reducing their stress, so consider offering flex time, giving employees a chance to provide input on their schedules, and allowing them to take vacation time when they need it. In addition, you can support day-to-day mental health needs by seeking to promote a low-stress environment where employees can take classes on stress management, mindfulness, and resilience.