We Know Employee Mental Health Matters, But How Can We Improve It?


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, August 15, 2022

Put these crucial components at the heart of your HR strategy to ensure you're taking positive action on workforce mental health and overall wellbeing.

Article 4 Minutes
We Know Employee Mental Health Matters, But How Can We Improve It?

Mental wellbeing is an issue that no employer can afford to ignore. Research has shown that mental health challenges have been increasing in prevalence in recent years, even before the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Mental Health America:

  • Just prior to the pandemic, nearly a fifth of Americans experienced a mental illness
  • A growing percentage of young people in the US are living with major depression
  • More than half of adults with a mental illness don't receive treatment
  • The proportion of adults reporting unmet needs for treatment has increased every year since 2011

As well as being a key part of your duty of care towards your workforce, efforts to improve mental health can generate a range of commercial benefits for the business, including increased productivity, lower rates of absenteeism and reduced staff turnover.

So if you're not currently placing a major emphasis on promoting mental wellbeing in your workplace, now is the time to start.

Design a dedicated strategy

It's no longer enough for mental health to be a footnote in your broader business mission statement. It should be the focus of a dedicated strategy that underlines your commitment to this issue and outlines the actions you're taking to support your employees and help them maintain a high standard of wellbeing.

Creating a bespoke strategy around this issue will help you achieve a range of positive outcomes, including the effective integration of mental health into your workplace and company culture. If you're able to do this, you'll be in a better position to tackle any remaining stigma surrounding this subject and overcome opposition to new initiatives and investments.

Furthermore, a defined strategy will make it easier for you to establish clear metrics so you can measure performance in this area and make constructive, data-driven changes to your approach as required.

Understand your business and people

An essential early step in the development and implementation of your mental health strategy is understanding the current state of your business and its workforce. After all, you can't expect to make genuine, lasting improvements if you don't know the baseline you're working from.

There's a lot you can do to build a detailed picture of current mental wellbeing standards in your company, including arranging regular employee feedback sessions and running anonymous surveys to collect honest opinions.

Gathering in-depth data on absenteeism, presenteeism, productivity and talent retention could also provide valuable insights into how issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are impacting the business.

If you want to give individual workers every opportunity to talk to their line managers about how they're feeling, consider introducing an open-door policy.

Prioritize education and awareness

Education is an essential part of the journey towards better understanding and management of mental health in the workplace.

This can come in various forms. Firstly, it's important to give all employees access to training, resources and information that will help them develop their understanding of this issue and how it can impact them, their colleagues and the company as a whole.

You should also take care to ensure that every member of your workforce can easily access guidance about the mental health services and support available to them. People who are going through a difficult time might feel entirely alone in the experience, and may be unaware of services such as counseling and support groups available through their jobs.

Learn more: 5 Reasons Your Workplace Needs Mental Health Champions

Show strong leadership

The people in the most senior positions in your organization should be setting the right example on how to approach and engage with the subject of mental health in the workplace.

Managers and business leaders should have a good understanding of subjects such as how to help people who are experiencing anxiety and whose work performance is suffering as a result. Senior figures who demonstrate how to deal with situations like this in an understanding and empathetic way will serve as exemplars of good practice to the rest of the business.

As well as helping to cultivate a positive and healthy culture for existing employees, this will boost your recruitment efforts by strengthening your employer brand and showing your company's commitment to looking after its workers.

Embrace flexibility

Flexible working became a necessity for countless businesses and individuals all over the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As well as making it possible for companies to continue functioning with people working from various locations and at different times, flexible arrangements can lead to a range of benefits from a health and wellbeing perspective.

Rewarding loyal employees with the option to work a certain number of days a week from home, for example, could limit stress and anxiety by helping them achieve a better work/life balance.

Flexible and adjustable hours could also free up time for people to engage in activities that are beneficial for their mental health, which could be anything from attending counseling sessions to exercising during the day.

In the long term, small provisions like these could have a significant impact on workforce wellbeing and, consequently, the efficiency and performance of your business.

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