Rethinking Your Workplace Mental Health Strategy

With one in four adults experiencing mental health conditions, organizations have a responsibility to care for their teams.
Two women seated discussing workplace mental health.

This story is a guest contribution from Compass Business Solutions, which helps customers maximize organizational performance through a variety of programs designed to empower the backbone of any organization — its people.

Is there a workplace reason to pay attention to mental health? The answer is a resounding yes! If you have not personally experienced a mental health struggle at some point, you probably love someone who has. From a personal angle, this is an important topic to all of us because we care about our family and friends and want them to be healthy. But why should organizations care about workplace mental health, and what can they do to help employees struggling with mental health?

Let’s start with some statistics:

  • One in four adults will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. 
  • 19% of US workers rate their mental health as fair or poor, leading to nearly 12 days of unplanned absences, and resulting in almost $47 billion of lost productivity.
  • 33% of US workers believe their job has a “somewhat negative” impact on their mental health, with 7% reporting an “extremely negative” impact.

Reducing workplace mental health stressors

Employees working firsthand in the human resources and HR technology space know how the work environment can personally and physically affect us all—everyone in an organization is susceptible to a mental health struggle regardless of their position or level. 

While much is written about how to support employees in the workplace with treatment and care options, we should also consider how to prevent workplace mental health triggers and burnout from occurring in the first place.

So, what are some things we can do to proactively support our employees’ mental health to prevent or minimize stressors? We can start with some easy changes, like establishing a cadence of well-deserved breaks after a project wraps up. Paid time off and sick days should also be provided when employees need them. Some companies have a toxic culture that intimidates employees into coming into the office when they are sick. We must create policies to make sure employees call off when they’re not feeling well to prevent burnout and to protect the health of others in the office.

Providing more time away from the office

Additionally, employers can consider implementing mental health days and making a habit of regularly checking in with employees to ensure they’re taking vacation time to recharge. Adding more holidays to your company calendar, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Juneteenth, and Veterans Day, is another effective way to enable employees to take a much-needed break, while also showing respect to different communities. Some companies also shut down completely during the holiday season, encouraging employees to relax and spend time with their loved ones.

Discussing workplace mental health

Starting the honest conversation about mental health means destigmatizing and speaking openly about it. Employers can also create strategies that advocate for workplace mental health awareness and provide tangible resources to help when mental health issues arise. This could look like an internal campaign that encourages employees to use their employee assistance plans (EAPs) to address concerns early. Let employees take therapy appointments during work hours and consider bringing in an onsite mental health counselor weekly or monthly to meet with employees.

Hosting wellness activities like yoga, meditation, or trainings on mental health can also create a healthier work environment. For example, at Compass, we offered a spa day in January instead another December holiday party that adds to the employee’s pile of obligations at the end of the year. Creating a culture with a healthy work-life balance through tangible boundaries can improve the mental and physical health of everyone in the organization.

Leveraging technology

HCM professionals know the importance of having access to data that can benefit employees. Use analytics on open enrollment to assess your benefit strategy and explore plans that cover mental health care for employees and dependents. Many insurance plans now have better benefits for mental healthcare like telehealth, therapy, and medication. Also keep in mind that if an employee is having a mental health crisis, their dependents may also be suffering. Make sure your employees mental health benefits cover everyone in their households.

Training managers on workplace mental health

We know that managers play a critical role in employee happiness and engagement. Leadership training is a necessity to ensure that managers are properly skilled to create an environment in which their reports can optimally perform. Key areas to educate and train managers on include:

  • Recognizing the warning signs of mental health issues
  • Proactively supporting team members when they do see the warning signs
  • Checking in regularly with employees on their workloads and how they’re doing personally
  • Acting when you see a need for an accommodation and overseeing the process

Beyond that, we need to hold managers accountable and measure how well they support their employees’ work-life balance and how they model it themselves. These items could even be included as annual performance goals.

Starting the conversation now

Workplace mental health is an important conversation that employers and employees can be directly involved in. Implementing just one of these strategies can greatly affect the health of your employees and the health of your organization. Changing our work culture to understand, support, and accommodate mental health struggles will not happen overnight, and the process must start now for a better future ahead. 

Are you ready to learn how strategic guidance from Compass can help you confidently grow your business, hire and develop talent, boost engagement, and more? Visit Compass Business Solutions on the UKG Marketplace to learn more.