A person will spend an estimated 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. That’s one-third of a person’s life! Therefore, it won’t surprise you that work significantly impacts a person’s happiness, sense of fulfillment, and quality of life. All of these things play a major role in overall mental health and wellbeing. Employers need to recognize this fact and know it is advantageous to support employee mental health.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are three of the most considerable productivity, creativity, and innovation killers of all time. The American Institute of Stress survey found that nearly half of respondents (48%) agree that stress negatively impacted their personal and professional lives. The same study discovered this negative impact cost U.S. employers over $300 billion annually in stress-related healthcare and missed work.
Employers with policies and programs to support and improve employees’ physical and mental wellbeing will see increased productivity, decreased healthcare costs, and increased employee retention. Here are six ways to support your employees’ mental health to reap these benefits.
1| Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
EAPs are an inexpensive benefit offering third-party support and resources to help employees deal with anything from major life changes to minor inconveniences. The purpose of EAPs is to help with employee challenges issues early before they impact their work performance. Several studies uncover the return on investment (ROI) for EAP programs with the impact areas seen in presenteeism, lost work time, depression, and risk reduction. The 2020 Workplace Outcome Suite study gave an overall ROI ranging from $2,000 to $3,500 per employee using the EAP.
Some examples of the most common topics tackled by an EAP include:
- Divorce resources
- Child or elder care needs
- Relationship building tools
- Employee relations between coworkers or managers and employees
- Stress, depression, and anxiety
- Training and education to help employees gain new skills
- Legal or financial consults
While an EAP program has a significant ROI for employees who use it, the biggest challenge is utilization. Employers offering an EAP benefit should regularly remind employees of the benefit.
2| Work-life balance policies
Technology and remote work programs have blurred work and home life boundaries. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to develop policies that help employees switch off from work for that quality relaxation time. Allow employees more control over when, where, and how they work. Evaluating employees on results rather than time spent working also adds to this control. You may also teach employees how to cut unnecessary tasks and set clear boundaries between work and play.
Employees who achieve a good balance between life and work are more productive, efficient, and motivated. They also solve problems more effectively and creatively.
3| Flexible work schedules
Flexible working plays a considerable role in supporting employee mental health. The 2018 study by FlexJobs revealed that 97% of people said having a flexible job would positively impact their quality of life. People also consider it as the second most important factor, after remote work, when choosing an employer. So, make flexible scheduling a part of your benefits package. Give employees the freedom to work at a time when and a location where they are most focused. Never make employees feel guilty for attending health-related appointments. Remember, doctor’s offices are often open during regular business hours. You don’t want to inadvertently discourage your employees from addressing any physical or mental health concerns from the onset.
4) Employee education and training
As an employer, you may be providing access to a range of resources and services to support your employees’ mental health. But providing them alone is not enough. Each employee’s situation is different. They may want help but do not know where to start. Bring in experts to educate employees on identifying signs of and resources for common mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Even if an employee isn’t dealing with a challenge themselves, chances are they will encounter a coworker, friend, or family member who is.
5| Wellness programs
The saying “a healthy body leads to a healthy mind” holds true in all facets of life, including the workplace. Workplace wellness programs encourage employees to make positive lifestyle choices to improve their physical and mental health. Going beyond the traditional smoking cessation programs of ol’, you may choose to offer things like discounted gym memberships, massage therapist visits, power nap rooms, or on-site Weight Watchers meetings. It’s most important to ask employees what they desire in a wellness program.
6| Psychologically safe work environment
In a positive or psychologically safe (link to article) work environment, employees are more apt to share ideas and concerns, ask questions, and show vulnerability. They can do so without fear of humiliation or punishment from managers and colleagues. You’ll also find more open communication, mutual respect, trust, and understanding between employees, and positive attitudes towards failure. Positive workplaces make employees feel supported, valued, and appreciated. Likewise, they foster a sense of belonging. This all contributes toward improved mental wellbeing.
With a significant portion of our waking hours spent in the workplace, employers have an opportunity to contribute to employee mental wellbeing. Investing in strategies, tools, and resources focused on positive mental health will prove advantageous to employers and employees. Build a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce by recognizing and considering this impact.