Employee satisfaction and retention are of the utmost importance in the current economy. Currently, there are 11 million open jobs in the US and only six million unemployed workers that can fill them. Companies that offer positive and supportive work environments will stand apart from the competition.
Since roughly 1 in 5 adults in the US are affected by mental health issues, with numbers rising since the beginning of the pandemic, placing a priority on promoting mental health in the workplace has never been more essential. Luckily, businesses have a number of tools at their disposal to help employees with their mental wellness.
1. Provide mental health training
Training management, especially for middle and lower level employees, to recognize the signs of burnout, anxiety, depression, addiction and other mental health issues is a crucial step. Identifying these problems and getting help for those affected can increase employee retention, happiness in their position and work performance.
A solid training program will also provide management with the tools and resources to look for red flags in their employees and themselves. It can be the catalyst for open and honest conversations about mental health and work towards removing stigma. The same training materials should be available to everyone in an easily accessible location so that anyone can benefit from this important information.
2. Survey employees
Creating an anonymous survey where employees can express the way certain aspects of their job and personal life affect their wellbeing and performance is the best way to gauge workplace mental health. A thorough survey should also include open space for suggestions on how the business could improve.
After getting the results, seriously consider making adjustments to schedules, policies and offerings to enhance the employee experience. Check in regularly with updated questionnaires to assess the success of these improvements.
3. Allow for flexible schedules and locations
A 2021 survey from the American Psychological Association showed that 87% of workers thought efforts from their employer could improve their mental health. One of the most common requests was for more flexible hours. The pandemic gave people a taste of what a more fluid schedule could look like and made it easier to take care of children or other family members while still bringing home a paycheck.
Now that much of the workforce is in-person again, employees are missing the freedom they were able to experience during lockdowns. To stay relevant, businesses should consider offering more flexible hours and work locations, allowing people to complete work within a set time frame and choosing where to work each day.
4. Set up an employee assistance program (EAP)
An EAP should be a standard part of your benefits package. It’s designed to help employees get help for personal problems and job-related stress before their work is affected. Traditionally, they’re a free or low-cost offering that can help with a number of scenarios depending on what a business decides to cover.
For fields that require further education or new skills to advance, companies could offer tuition reimbursement or provide on-site learning. A focus on family could include adoption assistance, marriage counseling and child care. Employees with mental health issues or working through substance abuse would benefit from in-house counseling or referrals.
5. Open lines of communication
When discussions about mental health become part of everyday conversations and a workplace norm, employees feel more comfortable sharing their experiences and getting the help they need. Keeping lines of communication open at all levels of an organization removes the stigma of mental health care.
Management should be willing to share their struggles and how they overcame their own mental health issues. Frequent company or department-wide reminders about EAP offerings and easily accessible wellness information are also signs of a healthy workplace.
6. Offer adequate mental health benefits
A recent Gallup poll found that 64% of employees identified increased pay and benefits as their most critical reason to work for a new company, and simple medical coverage won’t cut it anymore. In this job seeker's market, businesses need to improve their offerings to cover a wider variety of physical and mental health issues.
In addition to increased coverage, companies can include paid mental health days. For maximum effectiveness, employees should be able to take these without giving an explanation — let them keep the details personal to build trust.
Paid travel time or a stipend each year would also go a long way toward improving company mental health and reducing burnout. To ensure everyone reaps the mood-boosting benefits, don’t allow a large number of vacation days to roll over yearly. Instead, encourage all employees to take time off to rest and recuperate.
7. Foster relationship building
Workplace relationships have a positive effect on employee satisfaction and mental health. In fact, during a typical 40-hour in-person work week, they spend more time with co-workers than with family members or friends. Those close bonds will serve as a layer of support for mental wellbeing.
Employers can set up fun events for staff outside of work hours to encourage social relationships in the workplace, or encourage icebreakers as a great way of getting to know one another. Management can set a great example by having an open-door policy.