As the conversation about workplace mental health and its importance continues, one particular aspect has gone neglected. Businesses are focused on finding workplace wellness solutions that they don’t always take time to pause and carefully analyze the problems at hand. In this case, while companies are evaluating benefits packages and introducing employees to wellness apps and services, no time is seemingly dedicated to dismantling the stigma still associated with mental health in the Western world.
Demystifying workplace mental health is the first step to improving it
It’s well-established that mental health plays a significant part in workplace productivity. Studies have even shown that mental illnesses are the most costly illnesses in the United States at $200 billion a year, costing more than heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Mental illnesses are also the most controversial. Because there are rarely symptoms you can see or measure, mental illness is more nebulous and abstract. That makes it harder for people to even believe mental illnesses exist. Mental illnesses like depression are also frequently mistaken for “laziness” or “lack of discipline.” These stigmas only serve to drive the mentally ill deeper into the shadows and make it harder for them to get the help they need.
Demystifying workplace mental health—reducing the ignorance and stigma that currently exists—has to be one of the first steps a company takes in improving employees’ mental health. If employees aren’t well-informed or don’t feel comfortable seeking out help, you’re only wasting your efforts.
So, how do you demystify workplace mental health? We offer five tips below.
Tip 1: Normalize mental health by talking about it
One of the easiest ways to make something more socially acceptable is through exposure. When electricity was first introduced to households, people were very wary about having something so dangerous in their homes and resisted it for years. Fast forward to now and you wouldn’t even be reading this blog without that same “dangerous” technology!
Something as simple as hanging flyers around the office can be an excellent first step to making mental health and the discussions around it more commonplace. Bring up mental wellness during meetings. If you’re taking a mental health day off work, say as much. Once employees realize it’s a safe topic, they’ll also open up more.
Talking about mental health is also a great way to educate skeptics and naysayers. Employees bogged down by stigma may be struggling with their mental health and not even realize it.
Tip 2: Train your managers to lead with awareness
Any wellness solution you bring to your workplace has to have backing from leadership. Managers see their employees regularly enough to pick up on changes in mood or health. They also have the ethos needed to add credibility to your workplace wellness initiatives.
However, not all managers are experts on workplace mental health. They may not always know what signs to watch out for or how to start what can be difficult conversations. Training your managers in situational awareness, crisis intervention, and compassion can help fill those knowledge gaps and make those difficult mental health conversations more productive.
Tip 3: Assess current workplace conditions
It’s like the adage goes: If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing! There’s no way to efficiently reduce the burden of mental illness in the workplace if you don’t know exactly what problems you’re dealing with. If you don’t first get a sense of what your employees are going through and what support they need, any solution you implement is a mere shot in the dark.
Assessment can take many forms. Anonymous company-wide surveys are a great place to start. Giving employees a chance to speak freely about their working conditions can shed some valuable light on previously buried problems that might exist. Focus groups and one-on-one meetings are other ways to hear your employees’ perspectives.
There are also more quantitative metrics you can review, such as employee absence trends, health insurance claims, and even demographics. Women, people of color, people with other health conditions, and those under 29 or over 65 are all more likely to struggle with their mental health.
Tip 4: Build mental health into benefits packages
Your benefits packages likely include physical health insurance. But do they also cover mental health? Baking mental health resources right into your benefits package saves your company the trouble of having to keep track of their related expenses. It also makes said resources more accessible to new hires, who may not be aware of what’s available to them.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, either. Access to therapists is great, but also consider stress management workshops, gym memberships, extra time off, or flexible work schedules as well.
Finally, as much of workplace stress stems from financial burdens, ensure to pay your employees a thriving wage relative to their cost of living. No matter how expensive it feels, the money you’ll save on health insurance and turnover is more than worth it.
Tip 5: Bring in the experts to help
Our final tip is simple: Get help! No one is expecting you to be a wellness expert overnight. Navigating the world of workplace wellness can be overwhelming. If a pipe burst in your office bathroom, would you try to fix it yourself? Or would you call a plumber who is trained and paid to have those skills and provide that service?
The same applies to workplace wellness. If you’re overwhelmed, bring in people who already know the ins and outs of workplace mental health solutions and have them help you. You’ll get the benefit of their expertise as well as a solution strategy you can count on.
Want to bring Fabulous to your workplace? Contact one of our experts to schedule a demo!