May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and according to Mental Health America, this year’s theme is Look Around, Look Within. It’s an essential theme for today because many outside and inside influences have affected our well-being in the past few years, including in the work environment. Therefore, business owners need to understand the everyday factors that impact them and their people and ensure that mental health resources are available.
Tips and strategies to prioritize mental health at work
Since 46% of Americans will suffer a diagnosable mental illness sometime in their lifetime, mental health is not something to ignore or take for granted. It affects our productivity, relationships, and our happiness. And yet, many business owners and workers don’t prioritize it as much as they should. There are many reasons for this. Often, employees fear the stigma and possible discrimination they may face. And supervisors may feel ill-equipped or uncomfortable about handling mental health matters sensitively and effectively.
So what can organizations do to promote healthy mindsets in the workplace? How can they create a culture of care and support for employees to help them be more proactive and aware of their own or even their co-workers’ mental health struggles? Here are some ideas that can make a difference:
- Culture check. How is the work environment? If you don’t know, it’s time to survey employee satisfaction, engagement, and especially stress! Use the feedback to find areas of improvement. Then, implement changes like revisiting your mental health initiatives, offering mental health screening, and providing resources to managers to help them support your vision of a positive and healthy workforce.
Is your workplace respectful, collaborative, diverse, and inclusive? If not, work on promoting teamwork, camaraderie, and fun. Next, immediately address toxic behaviors like bullying, harassment, discrimination, and even micromanagement, which can contribute to anxiety and job dissatisfaction. And finally, encourage supervisors to have an “open door” policy so that people feel comfortable expressing their feelings and bringing issues forward. Active listening and empathy will go a long way to helping a struggling employee feel heard and supported.
- Create opportunities to de-stress. According to HHS, the average worker spends half of their waking life at work. And working remotely doesn’t seem to have meant working any less! But overwork can also lead to an imbalance between job, community, and family obligations. Some ways employers can help are to offer wellness programs and benefits. Whether it’s yoga classes, meditation sessions, employee assistance programs (EAPs), or gym memberships, providing your employees with wellness options can boost their mental health and well-being. Managers can also be encouraged to organize fun activities like team-building games, trivia nights, or karaoke parties to foster a positive work culture. Also, generalize PTO designations so employees don’t feel stigmatized for taking a mental health day off.
While balancing workloads is an obvious first step, also make sure employees take enough breaks during their day, including lunch. Surveys show that many workers fail to take a lunch break, affecting their concentration, creativity, and health. In addition, working non-stop leads to burnout, stress, and anxiety.
And for managers worried about meeting benchmarks, numerous research articles show that productivity actually goes up with regular time-outs! Therefore, encourage your employees to “take a pause,” even just to stretch, grab a snack, or pet the office dog (pets are shown to reduce work-related stress)!
- Consistently unmet expectations in workload or performance. One boss regularly dismissed her teams with a “Great job today, but we’ve really got to pick up the pace tomorrow!” When managers consistently pass off tasks as “urgent,” two things can happen: your team will suffer the health effects of a constant state of urgency, sometimes called “hurry sickness,” or they will become less responsive because passing off every job as “urgent” means nothing is urgent! Build trust by setting reasonable expectations and deadlines and using urgency sparingly.
- Finally, praise and recognition go a long way! Organizations can prioritize employee mental health by celebrating individual and team successes, big and small. They should acknowledge their efforts, contributions, and impact. Recognition and reward can be verbal praise, feedback, awards, bonuses, or career advancement opportunities. You will find that acknowledgment boosts employee morale, motivation, and self-esteem while fostering a positive and supportive work culture!
Partnership Employment is committed to supporting mental health initiatives for our employees, candidates, clients, and the community. We even offer benefits for temporary employees. So if you are a business searching for the perfect candidate or a talented individual looking for a holistic company to join, give us a call today.
If you or someone you love needs immediate, confidential mental, emotional, or substance abuse support, call your organization’s employee assistance program (EAP). Alternatively, dial 988 to connect to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). 988 crisis counselors can quickly connect you with the help you or a loved one needs in your community.
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Fact Sheet: Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month 2023
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. Summary of Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace
Mental Health America. Take a Mental Health Test. Online Screening and Resources to Connect with Help