Mental Health & What We As Employers Can Do About It
As we begin to look at a post-Covid-19 world, we as a people have had to endure situations we could neither have foreseen nor prepared for, economically, emotionally, physically and even mentally. From job losses, furloughs, mass business closures, curfews, quarantines, lockdowns, and social distancing to name just a few, it is safe to say 2020 has been the year we will all remember.
Now more than ever our Mental Health has been put to the test, but we have also been given an opportunity to really understand and appreciate just how important our mental health really is. WHO has advised that depression is the leading cause of illness and even disability worldwide and this is on the rise. This rise naturally has bottom-line consequences as of course mental health issues are a leading cause of absenteeism, lower productivity, and naturally lower overall contribution to revenue.
Luckily, we have what it takes to take the action needed in order to address employees mental health and the evidence is already out there, that clearly shows that employer interventions pay off, with about eighty percent of employees whose employers focus on their mental health sees improved work efficacy and satisfaction.
To give workers the best opportunity to improve and enhance their mental wellbeing we as employers need to act now with robust, evidence-based mental health programs.
1) Beat the taboo
Mental Health is still a taboo topic in most workplaces and employees often do not want to disclose their mental state as they feel this will jeopardize their careers and it is this that needs to be tackled immediately. Initiatives must focus on removing the taboo in the workplace, be it via policies that treat mental and physical illness equally or the initiatives we put in place throughout the workplace to create an embracing culture.
Therefore, it is critical for Mental Health to not be considered as a personal problem or a character defect. As employers especially those like me who form part of a business HR or People-focused departments to encourage and train managers to notice and respond when someone shows any sign of distress.
It is our job to ensure that seeking help is seen as a sign of strength with well thought out company-wide education and communication, training, support groups along with business leaders speaking openly and honestly about their own struggles.
Whilst having policies and initiatives in place is a great start it becomes redundant should an employee not be able to access these. Employees need to be exposed to what initiatives or programs are available to them, who to contact, for when and for what throughout their journey with the business, be it onboarding, throughout their employment, or even off-boarding.
Now more than ever we have been able to really understand the value our technology has been able to provide in allowing us to keep in contact with our loved ones, work from home, or even study. The same applies here, providing several mediums to an employee to reach out and seek help is part of any Mental Health program's success.
3) Leading by example
Mental Health for the most part does, in fact, fall under HR, however, it is the businesses collective responsibility as well as that of the businesses leaders to represent the passion and persistence needed to embrace this cultural shift. Each C-level or line manager needs to make being at work safe, where people are able to share their ideas, make mistakes and take criticism, where they are less worried about internal politics, egos and gossip and more concerned about each other and their combined success. A lot of this can simply be achieved by keeping all your employees involved in the bigger picture, building work-life balance, focusing on individuals professional and personal growth as well as their development and recognizing employees for their work and achievements.
For those who are looking for some interesting ideas for things you can add to your existing program, here are some suggestions:
Mental Health Management Training
Employee support & Discussion groups
Access to telephone or virtual counseling 24/7
Meditation & Yoga
Paid time off for mental health counseling
Incorporating check-ups and treatment for Mental Health within your Health Insurance
Mental Health Day (additional days of leave specifically for mental health-related activities)
Each business is ultimately a cluster of individuals within our community and the above has other benefits to the greater country. The workplace has and will always be a key pillar in our ability to not just change the lives and prosperity of those who work in them but also the culture of our country. Ultimately by prioritizing mental health within your business, you can help your employees meet the challenges thrust upon them as a result of this pandemic and ensuring your own business is able to continue to succeed whilst also giving back to our country and community.