Bring the Mental Health Discussion to Work

In many cases, there is a direct correlation between how well a workplace addresses employees’ complex needs and how successful that business is.

frustrated woman talking to hr representative

It’s no secret that people are complex, perhaps the most unpredictable tool in any business owner’s toolkit. However, people are also the most valuable asset in any organization. In many cases, there is a direct correlation between how well a workplace addresses employees’ complex needs and how successful that business is.

Many employers have begun taking initiative to ensure employee health and work/life balance, offering benefits and implementing wellness programs. However, the picture isn’t complete until mental health is taken into consideration.

Mental Wellness and Work

According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression costs U.S. employers $44 billion annually. When employees are suffering emotionally or mentally, they are not going to be as productive and may miss work. By bringing the mental health discussion into the light, employers work to ensure more holistic employee wellness and prevent problems that may impact work flow.

Changing Perceptions

While mental health discussions have become more frequent in the news, they are still taboo in the workplace. Taking a “mental health day” is synonymous with playing hooky and the majority of employees don’t feel comfortable talking about depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. Some workplaces offer mental health resources, but employees may not necessarily feel like they need “help” or have big enough problems to warrant that kind of attention.

Changing the perception will take time and effort, but may really help the employees and the organization in the long run. Something as simple as watching the language can change the way employees feel about the program, such as how a UK program for the postal service was changed from “Help” to “Feeling First Class.” Encouraging employees to talk about experiences and feelings – rather than leaving it to them to reach out – can make a difference.

Empowering Employees

Providing resources is the first step to ensuring mental wellness in the workplace. It may be tempting to assign employees to look over the resources and participate, but this technique isn’t actually very useful when it comes to this particular topic. It’s important to make sure that employees can access mental health resources, but it’s also important to leave the rest to them – micromanaging can be especially harmful in this situation.

Checking In Daily

Talking with employees about their home life and concerns is an effective way to check in daily. If they seem to have emotional issues that you feel could be addressed using available resources these discussions could be a good way to introduce those resources. Daily check-ins may also help you to understand how situations outside of work may affect employees’ ability to work and productivity.

Expect Changes in Behavior

As employees begin to feel comfortable relaying mental health concerns and using available resources, there may be a temporary rise in absences and usage of mental health resources. These changes in behavior don’t indicate actual changes in mental health, but rather a type of unburdening that employees didn’t feel was acceptable before. Absences and complaints will generally level out, and employees may indicate greater satisfaction as time passes with new mental health policies in place.

HR software can help you to distribute resources to your employees and even facilitate conversations about mental health between employees and human resources professionals. For help selecting HR software that could benefit your organization, visit our Software Match page.


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