How to Put Employee Mental Health First

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How to Put Employee Mental Health First

Aug 18, 2022
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There’s no doubt that people have been feeling more anxious, stressed, and burnt out at work. So, what can employers do to improve workplace wellness? The answer is prioritizing employee mental wellness. After all, employees appreciate an empathetic employer that invests in them. Here are some ways to support your employees and their mental health.

Listen to Employees and Support Them

Providing health resources to your employees does not guarantee they will use them. Some employees may be hesitant to reach out for help. According to Sapien Labs, almost half of Americans that struggle with mental health don't get the help that they need. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide resources because you think they might not use them. There are a few things you can do to create a safe space for employees to seek help.

Actively listening to your employees is the first thing you can do. This is essential to understanding where gaps in your business might be. It's also crucial for understanding what your employees actually want. Make it a priority to check in with employees to see how they’re doing outside of work. Be especially mindful and available during occurrences that may be impacting your employees. To get a better idea of where your employee headspace is, try the following:

  • Have managers perform weekly or monthly 1:1 meetings with individual team members.
  • Host department office hours.
  • Distribute anonymous surveys to collect feedback on employee mental health and company performance.
  • Have HR create a forum where employees can submit suggestions for improvements or where they can talk to others about problems they’ve been facing and how to solve them.

Chances are, this feedback will provide connections in the attitudes of your employees. Use them to take actionable steps in creating a better wellness culture. Listening to employee needs and meeting them might boost happiness and retainment. This makes sense because who doesn’t want someone to hear and fulfill their wishes?

According to a survey from Modern Health, roughly 70% of participants reported that they value mental health benefits over employer-sponsored perks. This increase in demand for mental health benefits is likely why more companies are implementing more wellness programs and benefits. Consider the following examples of companies that are listening to their employees and taking action to support their mental well-being. In 2021, the employee happiness rating for the “instant needs” company Gopuff ranked in the Top 5% of 10,000+ employee companies. If you take a closer look at their benefits, Gopuff provides gym reimbursements, mental health benefits, wellness programs, and flexible work hours to employees.

Having the option to access mental health care and wellness programs allows employees to live a healthier lifestyle and address immediate concerns. Furthermore, a benefit like flex hours gives employees the opportunity to step away from work, mentally reset, and also spend time working with a mental health professional if need be. Another example of a business providing time and room for mental health at work is the software company Algolia. They offer “Listening Circles” to serve as a safe space for employees. Listening Circle discussions aren’t limited to work-related concerns. Employees can also use them to discuss anything that impacts them outside of work.

Implement a Wellness Program

Not everyone works a desk job, but it's implied that you will be sitting most of the day if you do. With the rise in hybrid and remote work, the time spent at a desk has increased. According to Forbes, one-third of remote workers sit at their desks the entire day. Additionally, 63% leave their desk but only to go to the bathroom or kitchen while 24% never leave their homes. This sedentary lifestyle is likely to lead to serious physical and mental implications. Whether they are onsite or remote, you can encourage employees to take breaks and be flexible to maintain their well-being, as well as their productivity.

You might find in your employee surveys that there’s a desire for more wellness initiatives. Consider providing a wellness program to support employees in their well-being journey. This type of benefit covers the costs of gym memberships or equipment, and individuals are more likely to use this benefit since they don't have to worry about paying out of pocket.

Take some of these ideas for inspiration when drafting your business’ wellness program:

  • Mental health education courses
  • Group fitness events
  • Health and wellness reimbursements (gym memberships, fitness apps, and mindfulness apps)
  • Support groups
  • Access to therapy sessions

Small initiatives throughout the workday can also support employee wellness. Consider blocking off some time for a team-building activity like goat yoga or a company 5k run outside of work hours to promote team building and collaboration. Just as assembling the right team is crucial, keeping employees connected over time is just as important. During the work week, it might be beneficial to give employees the option to “walk and talk” on informal Zoom calls. It’s a great way to promote movement and give them a chance to step away from their desks to go outside.

Provide Comprehensive Health Costs Coverage

Healthcare benefits and reimbursements are essential to employees’ physical well-being. Mental wellness is just as important as physical health, yet many companies don’t include mental health coverage for their employees. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act states there should be equal coverage for all health conditions, mental or otherwise.

To better support employees, choose a plan that supports all health needs. Consult your company’s employee resource groups to find what needs underrepresented groups of employees require and how you can fulfill these needs. Another way to provide mental health support is to offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This program is confidential and free for employees to use if they’re in need of professional help.

At the end of the day, it should be remembered that mental health is just as essential as physical health. The benefits of providing mental health support at work are proven to be worthwhile. However, employees may not know how or who to reach out to for help, so it’s important to support and guide them as best as you can.

The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Association for the Self-Employed or its members.

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