3 Ways to Prioritize Employee Mental Health

May 2023
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Employers across all industries are increasingly focused on addressing and supporting the mental health of their employees. While mental health has been a priority for some employers for a while, the COVID-19 pandemic brought this issue to the spotlight.

Employee mental health has a significant and measurable impact on your business and bottom line; the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has reported that mental health conditions can affect how present employees are at work and how satisfied they are with their roles.

Here are three ways your company can prioritize employee mental health.

Provide Mental Health Benefits

You may already provide sick days and personal days for your employees. But are you offering benefits such as mental health days or days off specifically geared towards mental health support or burnout prevention?

According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is a special type of work-related stress that can impact your employees' physical and mental health, with consequences that include:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger, or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Vulnerability to illnesses

Can a 4-Day Workweek Prevent Burnout?

Some employers are implementing 4-day work weeks and experiencing benefits such as less burnout and increased productivity and revenue. That being said, a 4-day work week doesn't work for everyone. The downside to a 4-day week can be scheduling issues, reduced paychecks, and increased performance expectations from managers.

And a 4-day work week only "works" if you allow your employees to cut back on work: shifting from five 8-hour to four 10-hour days is not doing your employees any favors. The most successful trials actually shortened the work week without docking employee pay.

Offer Employee Wellness Programs with Mental Health Support

Investing in employee wellness programs can benefit your workers' physical and mental health.

Research shows that wellness programs can encourage employees to smoke less, eat healthier food, exercise more, and manage stress more effectively. Wellness programs also have been shown to help employees reduce stress levels and alleviate and better manage the symptoms of depression, improving their overall well-being.

Employees have lauded employee resource groups (ERGs) as an effective way for companies to support employee mental health.

ERGs are a low- to no-cost mental health benefit. Organizations can also provide opportunities for social networking and company-sponsored events within the organization, which is especially important for remote or hybrid workforces.

Look, Listen, and Respond

No one goes from a happy, satisfied employee to a burnout, stressed-out employee overnight and with no warning. Take the time to listen to your employees when they start sending signals about being overworked or overwhelmed. Find ways to support them, whether it is setting better boundaries with overbearing clients or training managers to understand employee well-being and mental health better.

If you've experienced an uptick in turnover and can't seem to keep good workers, that's a very strong signal that your employees may need you to step in and intervene in some way.

Pay attention to your employees' words, attitudes, and actions: they'll tell you what you need to know about your organization's effectiveness at supporting mental health in the workplace.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health should be a priority year-round for employers, but the month of May is a great time to assess your current programs, benefits, and attitudes around mental health support and make changes to create a supportive, protective work environment.

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