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Mental Health Month: Mental Health in the Workplace

Paige McKirahan

Paige McKirahan

May 21, 2021

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the discussion about personal wellbeing in the workplace is long overdue. After a year of being inside dealing with an unstable economy, uncertain wages, the threat of disease, and more, it’s time to uncover how exactly the pandemic has affected our teams. 

COVID-19 not only took a massive toll on the nation’s physical health, but it also damaged many employees’ mental health. So much so that in fall 2020, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that mental illness could surpass obesity as the most common pre existing condition in the United States. What does that mean for businesses? Untreated mental illness in the workplace costs businesses $105 billion each year on account of lost productivity.

Even though there is now a light forming at the end of our pandemic tunnel, many people are still dealing with the negative effects of high stress and anxiety brought on as a result of COVID. The CDC reports that the number of adults experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression was at 11% during January to June 2019; this number jumped up to 41.5% from the end of January 2021 to the beginning of February. 

In many cases, employees still feel as if there is a stigma when it comes to discussing mental health in the workplace. 63% of employees struggle with mental health issues, but over half of them feel uncomfortable bringing it up to their managers despite the fact that it may be having a negative impact on their work performance. 

Today, you have a chance to help defeat this stigma and create an environment where your employees are comfortable talking about these strugglings in the workplace. So how can you help create a culture of health?

Provide free resources for all team members

One of the easiest ways to make sure that your employees are taking care of their mental health is by providing free resources in the workplace that allow them to do just that. Start by distributing materials throughout the office that detail the signs and symptoms of poor mental health along with treatment options, opening the door for mental-health centric conversations.

Next, you can disperse self-assessment resources to your team; this will allow them to evaluate their mental health on their own time, and you can have open discussions about results with employees who would like to do so.

To take these both a step further, why not offer free or subsidized screenings for mental health conditions? This way, your employees can get the help they need without worrying about cost or requesting time off of work. It’s a simple offer, but it lets your team know that you truly care about their health and want them to get help they deserve.

Host events that address stress management and overall wellness

The easiest way to make sure your team is taking care of their mental health? Schedule wellness events yourself during work hours! Let’s face it: your team members are busy. Their schedule is full of work, family activities, and other extracurriculars that could be causing a strain on their mental health. By integrating wellness activities into your workweek, you can give your team time to breathe, thus boosting their productivity for the remainder of their shift. 

Hosting these activities also can expose your team to wellness practices they may not have engaged in before; this exposure may help your employees begin a wellness practice on their own, giving them the ability to take care of their health both on and off the clock!

Our virtual experience platform offers a full suite of wellness activities perfect for helping your employees take care of their mental health. Our program features offerings like guided meditations, yoga classes, and more. Whether you’re focused on stress reduction, fitness, or just plain relaxation, we can create a program that is tailored to your needs. Learn more about the benefits of wellness programs here.

Provide managers with training to help them recognize signs of stress in their team

In the case that your employees are like the many people who are still uncomfortable with talking about mental health in the workplace, it will be up to your managers to recognize when one of their team members is struggling. The goal of this training is less about making your managers “hover” and more so about teaching them the signs of mental illness so they can intervene if needed.

Managers who receive this type of training have been shown to relay more mental health resources to employees and encourage their use of those resources if they need support. Additionally, employees are more likely to use these resources if their manager has taken mental health related courses.

If you’re interested in training options for your higher-ups, check out Mental Health First Aid. They provide comprehensive mental health training to workplaces and want to make this type of training as common as CPR. Check out their offerings here.

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—Ellen K., Employee Experience Specialist, Frame.io