How To Improve Mental Health Awareness In The Workplace
In 2017, Madalyn Parker, a web developer at Olark, sent an email to her team notifying them that she would be taking time off to focus on her mental health. ‘Hey team,’ she wrote, ‘I’m taking today and tomorrow off to focus on my mental health. Hopefully, I’ll be back next week refreshed and back to 100%’. Her boss, the CEO of Olark, Ben Congleton, praised her decision, and responded to her email saying, ‘I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health – I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organisations. You are an example to us all and help cut through the stigma so we can bring our whole selves to work’.
More and more employees are becoming aware of the importance of their mental health in their working lives and are seeking employment in companies that provide resources and support to keep minds healthy and happy. In fact, in a recent study by One4all Rewards, 48% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to stay long-term with an employer that shows concern about their mental health and a shocking 40% said they would leave a job where an employer did not care about their wellbeing.
The bottom line is; employees won’t stay in careers that demand so much from them, both physically and mentally, and yet leave little room for well-being. They recognise that their mental health is important, they’re thinking about its role in their working lives as well as their personal lives and they’re making it their priority to take care of it.
If employers want to retain their strong talent, they need to start considering their employees’ mental health. Here are three ways employers can improve mental health in the workplace:
1. Increase Awareness
DuPont developed an educational programme to encourage employees to reach out to co-workers who appear to be in emotional distress. The company’s ICU campaign – which stands for Identifying, Connecting and Understanding, as well as ‘’I See You’’) includes a five-minute video that teaches employees how to ask appropriate questions when someone appears to be struggling. While the video suggests non-judgemental conversation starters such as ‘’You’re not your usual self’’’, employees are discouraged from attempting to diagnose peers. Paul Heck, DuPont’s global manager of employee assistance and work/life services, said: ‘It’s not a very complicated message. It’s just encouraging people to recognise when another person is in distress and letting them know it’s OK to be a normal, caring person and help them out. When I’m carrying something heavy, you don’t think twice about offering to help me. We’re just suggesting that same courtesy can apply to people who are demonstrating distress.’
Give employees access to education and resources from national organisations and like DuPont, implement a campaign that focuses on raising awareness of mental health in the workplace and offers advice how to approach co-workers who are having a tough time.
2. Offer Training To Managers
Provide opportunities for managers to attend relevant training so they can support employees who are struggling with their mental health. The training programmes should cover; the signs to watch out for, how to approach the topic with employees, and the different types of support that should be implemented. Employees will be more likely to open up about their struggles mentally if they know their boss has educated themselves on the topic.
3. Encourage Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is an important part of a healthy work environment and employers should introduce incentives that promote this. In One4all Rewards research, employees listed their top five health and well-being incentives as; flexible working hours (69%), free/subsidised health insurance (60%), a work from policy (41%), mental-health initiatives (38%), and counselling services (38%). Mental health charity Mind explains that flexible working hours can provide a better work-life balance, greater control, a chance to avoid traffic, and the opportunity to attend medical appointments – all of which are important for those coping with a mental illness.