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It is estimated that approximately one in five adults in the United States lives with a mental illness. This includes a wide range of disorders that can have a mild or severe impact on an individual’s daily life.
Like it or not, stressors in the workplace can sometimes contribute to or aggravate mental health problems. In fact, surveys indicate that one in four employees experience weekly performance issues related to stress, anxiety and work-related pressures, while 63% say they struggle monthly.
For this reason, employers have a responsibility to ensure the mental and emotional well-being of their employees. While you can’t control everything that impacts an employee’s mental health, there are simple things employers can do to promote a positive influence in the office.
Promoting Mental Health Awareness
Destigmatizing mental health discussions in the office often starts with raising awareness. Business leaders should provide plenty of resources and information to employees to help them learn more about mental health and where they can go for help when needed. These resources should also include information on addiction recovery, as addiction is often associated with mental health issues.
Mental health training can be especially beneficial for people in leadership positions. Providing your organization’s leaders with training on how to recognize depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms—as well as appropriate intervention techniques—can enable them to engage with members of the struggling team in a positive and beneficial way.
Offer anti-stress break activities
Work pressures can make the office (or even working from home) environment more stressful than it should be. Leaders can solve this problem by regularly offering health break activities to the whole team. For example, the practice of yoga has been shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety in children and adults. Scheduling an onsite yoga session (or even virtual yoga for your work-from-home team) with a local instructor can help release tension and teach employees a valuable coping activity.
Alternatively, you can set up wellness stations that staff members can use for their breaks during the day. Meditation or stretching areas, or even adult coloring books, can be a valuable mental health break. Also, don’t be afraid to let your team get outside and enjoy the fresh air! For employees working from home, offer scheduled breaks during the day to encourage them to get away from their computers.
Demonstrate a genuine interest in the well-being of employees
Much of our self-esteem comes from others liking and caring about us. This is especially true in the workplace, where studies show that simply “feeling valued” at work improves mental health, as well as job satisfaction and engagement. Helping employees feel valued starts with showing genuine interest in their lives. Make an effort to remember details of their personal life, such as the names of their family members and their weekend plans.
Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Protect Their Sanity While Being Their Own Boss
Leading by example to eliminate stigma
Workplace perceptions of mental health and other issues start at the top. Even if your company has a formal mental health policy, discussions and attitudes towards these initiatives will largely be based on the words and actions of leaders.
This doesn’t mean you have to tell your staff all the details of your own issues and challenges. But being open enough to share when you’re feeling overwhelmed or having a tough day can affirm and empower others.
Honesty and openness lets everyone know that it’s okay to share how they’re feeling and it’s okay to have bad days. Your personal actions will have a ripple effect that will impact how open others are to discussing mental health in the workplace.
Communicate regularly to manage stress at work
Like it or not, stress quite often results from the work your employees do for you day in and day out. In fact, the ASI Workplace Stress Survey indicates that workload is the number one cause of workplace stress, cited by 41% of respondents. A further 18% cited juggling work and personal life as their main stressor.
Related: 5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health
Leaders are responsible for ensuring workloads are appropriate for each member of their team. Managers should meet regularly with their employees to discuss these and other challenges to fully understand what everyone’s workloads look like. It is not appropriate for an employee to regularly work 60-hour weeks because of the workload for which he is responsible. Don’t be afraid to embrace the growing mindset of “relaxing work,” which focuses on producing high-quality work while setting boundaries to prevent the work from becoming overwhelming. Very often, less responsibility means the job gets done better.
Understanding when employees are feeling overwhelmed can help leaders identify when they need to adjust workloads or even hire additional staff.
Business leaders can make a difference
Your employees spend a significant portion of their week taking care of your business, and as such, what happens in the workplace can have a major impact on their mental health. When leaders take steps to improve the mental and emotional well-being of their employees, employees will have improved job performance, productivity, and engagement. They will be better communicators.
Paying attention to your team’s mental health doesn’t just improve business results. More importantly, these steps will ensure that your team members are more likely to be happy and healthy, and able to handle all of their life’s challenges.