Why We Should Normalize Talking About Mental Health in the Workplace

Friday, February 17, 2023

Discussing mental health in the workplace has long been stigmatized. That’s especially true in high-pressure careers and big business. It’s been believed that talking about mental health or discussing struggles might be perceived as a sign of “weakness” or instability.

Article 4 Minutes
Why We Should Normalize Talking About Mental Health in the Workplace

However, we’re seeing a major problem with mental health in the workplace throughout the country. Over the last few years, the average American employee has had to deal with the lingering effects of a global pandemic. Many people were laid off, while others started working remotely for the first time. Now, the economy feels unstable and we’re still facing labor shortages.

Workers are being asked to do more, and they’re feeling the pressure and stress. That kind of stress can carry over into their personal lives, and lead to lasting mental health issues like anxiety or depression.

One of the easiest ways to mitigate workplace stress and any other underlying mental health issues is simply by fostering an environment of open communication and mental wellness within your business.

Let’s dig a little deeper into why we should normalize talking about mental health in the workplace, and how it can benefit both businesses and employees.

The benefits of a mental wellness environment

Talking about mental health should be a top priority in every workplace, from small businesses to major corporations. When you run a bigger business, it’s even more essential to create an environment where your employees feel comfortable openly discussing their mental wellbeing without judgment. Some of the benefits of fostering this kind of environment include:

  • Greater productivity
  • Better employee retention
  • Reduced work-related stress
  • Increased social inclusion
  • Fewer sick days related to mental health stress

When you’re open to talking to your employees about their mental wellbeing, you’re also letting them know that it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling. Not only will that help them in the workplace, but it could encourage them to take care of their mental (and physical) health in their personal lives, too. Happier, less-stressed employees are going to strive to do better work for your business, and they’re going to remain loyal to your company.

When you foster this environment, you’ll likely become even more attractive to future potential employees, allowing you to recruit top talent. Most importantly, opening up to this kind of workplace environment will help reduce the stigma surrounding corporate mental health. The more businesses take the time to break down those barriers, the sooner we can let go of the stereotypes and fear that have been associated with mental wellness in the workplace for years.

How to normalize mental health

So, what can you do to actually tear down the walls surrounding mental health stigmas? Start by developing a strategy for mental wellness within your business. One of the best places to start is by normalizing talking about mental health. When you’re in a leadership position, starting that conversation can ignite a spark throughout your business, encouraging others to speak up, too.

However you choose to formulate your mental health strategy is up to you and the needs of your employees. But, if you’re having trouble coming up with effective ideas and practices, consider some of the following:

  • Establish regular well-being checks
  • Offer mental health training to managers
  • Create guidelines for absences (including mental health days)

It’s also a good rule of thumb to give your employees practical resources they can use outside of the workplace. Have appropriate referral resources on hand for every employee, and consider making it part of the onboarding process. Work with area therapists and counselors so you can provide your employees with useful information and refer them to safe, helpful places when they’re struggling.

Best practices for healthy employees

When employees are stressed, anxious , or depressed, they’re more likely to experience burnout in the workplace. That can lead to problems both in and out of the office, including difficulty sleeping, reduced productivity, difficulty concentrating, and recurring sickness. It’s important to put burnout reduction practices in place so your employees can enjoy what they do, and still achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Start by offering your employees the chance to work remotely, or even on a hybrid basis. Coworking spaces are becoming more popular across the country as freelancers and remote teams enjoy more flexibility. If you know certain members of your staff would benefit from that kind of flexibility and freedom, don’t hesitate to make it a part of your mental health strategy.

It’s also important to encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle in the office and at home. At work, you can do things like provide healthy snacks, encourage frequent breaks, and provide common areas for socialization. However, you can’t control what your team does at home. By encouraging activities and practices that promote mental wellness and reduce burnout, you’ll have a more effective and efficient staff, as well as a happier and healthier one.

It’s time to drop the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. It’s no longer a “taboo” topic. Now, as we enter a post-pandemic society, bringing mental health to light is more important than ever. Don’t be afraid to be a trailblazer in your industry, and start the conversation today.

Indiana Lee

Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, politics, and more. You can follow her work on Contently, or reach her at [email protected]


Join the conversation...