Workplace Wellness. Mental Health Matters.

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and we want to discuss why mental health is so important in the workplace.

Ensuring employees are mentally well is beneficial for a company and for workers both at work and in all other aspects of their lives.

Why mental health matters in the workplace

One of the most common mental health disorders in the United States of America is depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). A study from 2017 found that an estimated 17.3 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode during the past year. That equates to 7.1% of all adults in the United States.

Even when the issues that cause depression in an employee are not related to work, their mental health affects their ability to do their job well. Workplace mental health matters because it affects job performance and employee retention. Mental illness also affects an employee’s communication with coworkers and their physical capability to function daily.

According to Harvard Health, “the stigma attached to having a psychiatric disorder is such that employees may be reluctant to seek treatment.” They fear their jobs may be in jeopardy if they come forward, so they stay silent and avoid treatment.

A shift in attitudes by both employees and employers about mental disorders is needed to address the importance of mental health in the workplace. An understanding that treatment does not always result in a quick fix is also needed so employees may feel confident taking the time they need to treat their mental illness. They must understand that in this case, good things really do come to those who wait.

What you can do as an employer to support mental health

Make management aware. Increasing awareness so people in the workplace can notice when a coworker is in crisis is an important step in supporting mental health and emphasizes that training managers to do this is critical. Managers should have opportunities to attend training that will give them the skills to support those who have mental illnesses for both the well-being of the person who needs help and the well-being of everyone in the workplace. That training should include the knowledge that not all employees’ mental illnesses can be treated the same way, and managers will need to approach each employee as an individual.

Prevent burnout. When an employee has emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by “excessive and prolonged stress,” they are likely to be overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands of their job. Help Guide says the most common signs of work burnout include feeling like there’s little or no control over work, getting no recognition or rewards for good work, job expectations that are unclear or too demanding, being assigned unchallenging work, or an environment that is high-pressure or chaotic. An employer should minimize these situations to help prevent employee burnout.

It’s okay not to be okay. Let employees know their mental health is important to the company and that addressing mental illness is encouraged at all levels of employment. Ensure that health plans offered to all employees include adequate mental health coverage, and discuss mental health issues in the workplace. The more the conversations around mental health happen, the less stigma employees will feel surrounding them.

Promote a healthy work/life balance. Employers expect more from their people, which leads to them feeling more pressure to achieve greater results. Consequently, this leads to longer working hours, and less time spent at home. As a business leader, you have a responsibility to help all your team juggle the demands of their work and personal lives. Be aware that even your most engaged employees may still be struggling to find balance. Encourage time off! Vacations are not a luxury, but a necessity.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is not only important for health and relationships, but it can also improve your employee’s productivity, and ultimately, their performance. If employees don’t view work as a chore, then they will work harder, make fewer mistakes, and are more likely to become advocates for your brand.

Is your organization working hard to promote the importance of mental health?

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