May 25, 2023

Employee mental health has become a pressing concern in today’s fast-paced and demanding work environments. The CDC reports that more than 1 in 5 American adults live with a mental health condition—and while the pandemic skyrocketed remote work and its many conveniences, it’s also increased isolation and loneliness.

Declining mental health in the workplace leads to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher healthcare costs. In fact, mental illness and substance abuse cost employers an estimated $225.8 billion each year in the United States alone. These statistics highlight the urgent need for employers to address and support the mental well-being of their workforce.

Compassionate, forward-thinking employers must prioritize employee wellness to combat the mental health crisis. Below, we’re discussing ways leaders can put workplace mental health first.

The Benefits of Focusing on Employee Mental Health:

Prioritizing employee mental health demonstrates a compassionate and caring work culture and brings several significant benefits to both employees and employers. When employers invest in their employees’ mental health, they can expect:

  1. Enhanced Productivity: Employees who feel supported in their mental health are more engaged and motivated, leading to increased productivity and efficiency in their work.
  2. Reduced Absenteeism: Employers can help reduce absenteeism due to mental health concerns by promoting mental well-being. This, in turn, leads to lower costs associated with lost productivity and recruitment.
  3. Improved Employee Retention: A workplace that values mental health fosters employee loyalty and commitment. Employees who feel supported are more likely to stay with the organization long-term.
  4. Enhanced Work Environment: A mentally healthy workplace encourages open communication, reduces stigma, and promotes positive employee relationships, resulting in a more collaborative and harmonious work environment.

9 Methods to Strengthen Workplace Mental Health

To effectively support employee mental health, employers and managers can implement the following methods and leverage available resources:

Promote Mental Health Awareness

Conduct regular workshops and training sessions to educate employees about mental health, common signs of distress, and available resources. Share informative materials, such as brochures and posters, that raise awareness about mental health and provide guidance on seeking help.

Invite guest speakers or mental health professionals to address specific topics and answer questions from employees. Some organizations have counselors and other supports come into the office regularly so employees can speak with them when needed.

Establish a Supportive Work Culture

Encourage open and honest communication about mental health by fostering an environment free from judgment and stigma. Train managers and supervisors on how to have supportive conversations with employees about their mental health concerns. This may include leaders sharing their own mental health experiences to help eliminate the stigma and make employees more comfortable asking for support.

Offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Collaborate with an employee assistance program (EAP) provider to offer confidential counseling services, mental health resources, and referrals for employees. 

If you find employees are hesitant to take advantage of these services, they may fear a stigma or not fully understand how it works. Communicate the availability and benefits of the EAP through multiple channels, such as email newsletters, intranet portals, and posters regularly. Ensure that employees are aware of the confidentiality of EAP services and how to access them when needed.

Making the EAP services available to employees’ immediate family members can also ease significant stress.

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Set clear expectations around work hours and encourage employees to prioritize self-care and personal well-being outside work. Showing and not just telling them that you respect their time and boundaries will prevent a culture of presenteeism, where employees feel pressured to work excessively long hours.

Implement flexible work options, such as remote work or flexible hours, to accommodate employees’ needs and promote work-life balance. Remind employees to take breaks, practice self-care, and utilize vacation time to prevent burnout. A solid PTO policy is also key here—many employers limit rollover to encourage workers to use it before they lose it!

Implement Stress Management Programs

In addition to an EAP, companies can offer stress reduction initiatives, such as mindfulness training, yoga or meditation classes, and resilience-building workshops. Enlist professionals to come in weekly, monthly, or quarterly, and be sure to promote these activities to ramp up employee engagement.

Other employers provide resources and tools to help employees manage and cope with workplace stress, such as subscriptions to relaxation apps or stress management guides. Encourage managers to lead by example and practice stress management techniques themselves.

Provide Managerial Training

While general workshops on mental health are beneficial, you should train managers and supervisors specifically on:

  • Recognizing signs of mental distress in their teams and providing appropriate support
  • Effective communication skills and how to have open, empathetic conversations about mental health with employees
  • Reasonable accommodations and the process of making necessary adjustments for employees with mental health conditions

This includes training leaders on the signs of substance abuse and how to handle it, an important skill to maintain a safe, healthy work environment.

Foster Social Connections

Team events and activities are something every organization should be doing–and something we’re passionate about here at BlueLion. Follow us on social media for some fun team outing ideas! Create opportunities for employees to build positive relationships, such as:

  • Team-building activities, social events, or volunteer opportunities
  • Formation of employee resource groups or wellness committees where employees can connect and support one another
  • Virtual or physical spaces for employees to share hobbies, interests, or personal achievements

All of the above give employees various avenues to connect, support one another, and establish a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Measure Employee Mental Health

While putting these methods and resources in place is crucial, you must also ensure your workplace mental health efforts are working as intended and adjust as needed. Be sure to:

  • Conduct anonymous surveys or assessments to gauge employee well-being, stress levels, and satisfaction with existing mental health initiatives.
  • Use the collected data to identify areas of improvement and tailor mental health programs to address specific needs within the organization.
  • Regularly communicate the results of these surveys to employees, demonstrating a commitment to their mental health and the organization’s dedication to continuous improvement.

Cover Mental Health Care

Many employees fail to seek mental health support due to the cost. Ease this burden by:

  • Evaluating and enhancing mental health coverage in employee healthcare benefits, ensuring comprehensive coverage for therapy, counseling, and psychiatric services
  • Communicating the mental health benefits clearly to employees and providing information on how to access and utilize mental health services within their insurance plans
  • Partnering with mental health providers to offer employee discounts or establish partnerships that make mental health care more accessible and affordable for employees
  • Providing a health savings account (HSA) to help employees manage expenses

Final Thoughts on Mental Health in the Workplace

Prioritizing employee mental health is crucial for creating a thriving and productive work environment. By implementing the methods and resources outlined above, employers can support their employees’ mental well-being, leading to enhanced productivity, reduced absenteeism, improved employee retention, and positive work culture. 

Remember, a mentally healthy workplace is a win-win situation for both you and your team, promoting overall employee wellness and contributing to the organization’s long-term success. Do you need ideas and guidance while building your employee mental health support program? Contact BlueLion’s HR professionals today at 603-818-4131 or to learn how we can help!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.