According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults in the US live with a mental health disorder. Since about 63% of Americans are in the labour force, that means a good number of working Americans are suffering from some form of mental health disorder.
Many are still reluctant to admit they have a mental health issue, especially at work. While many well-known personalities have been open with their mental health, the stigma remains. This is why it is important to create a safe space in the workplace that prioritises well-being of mind and body, encourages employees to speak up about their mental well-being, and motivates them to work on improving it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that poor mental health and stress can affect an employee negatively in terms of their job performance, productivity, relationship with co-workers, and overall physical functions. Such issues lead to higher healthcare costs on the part of the company, even more than costs related to smoking and obesity. These are reasons why it is important to develop a Workplace Mental Health Awareness Plan.
A Workplace Mental Health Awareness Plan can help identify those who may need treatment and professional help. By being able to detect and treat sooner, employers could save money on healthcare for their employees while relieving the concerned employees of the chronic stress that they had to deal with on a day-to-day basis at work. You can begin by promoting mental health awareness in your workplace. Here are a few ways to start.
Speak openly about mental health
To combat the stigma, we need to stop thinking about mental health as a taboo subject and start talking about it openly, whether it’s through an article you read, a show you watched, or just a personal experience. What is important is that your employees see you openly discussing it with them. Reassure them that you will always prioritise confidentiality and privacy.
Mental health training programmes
Managers need to know how to recognize symptoms of stress, burnout, and depression in their employees. Encourage everyone to attend support programs such as mindfulness, yoga, breathing exercises, and similar stress-busting workshops.
Create a top-down mental health awareness culture
Making mental health a priority starts at the very top. Your employees will only believe that the company is sincere about the importance of mental health when every executive and manager is living by the mental health awareness company culture.
Encourage mental health time off
Sometimes, workers just need a break. There used to be a time when every absence required a doctor’s medical certificate. Instead, build mental health time off into the leave benefits. Preventive measures are cheaper than more serious issues.
Design a mentally healthy workspace
Plants, water fountains, and cool wall colours create a workspace that relaxes and gives out positive energy. Some companies even encourage having dogs around. When people feel safe and comfortable in their workspaces, productivity increases and positively impacts everyone’s well-being.
Thankfully, employers are now becoming cognizant of mental health as an important part of their employees’ overall well-being. When mental health awareness is deeply ingrained and practised by a company, it will increase productivity and foster better working relationships as well as save on healthcare costs.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.