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8 Effective ways to improve mental health in the workplace

8 Effective ways to improve mental health in the workplace

As human resource managers and leaders of organizations, learning how to improve mental health in the workplace is critical. Do so by fostering an environment that prioritizes mental health and well-being. As you implement effective strategies that focus on mental health awareness, you’ll likely see an across-the-board improvement in productivity, culture, and environment. 

Where once there was a stigma, today, we understand the critical importance of addressing mental health in the workplace. Every year, 1 in 5 adults will experience a mental health condition, and 1 in 20 of them will be severe. The impact mental health has on the global economy is staggering — the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates it costs around $1 trillion annually.

It’s never been clearer that organizations need to address stress in the workplace and create a safe environment for their employees. The effort will pay off, too. Some research shows that offering mental health support can reduce absenteeism and presenteeism by up to 60%

Offering benefits and resources, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance, are simple ways to improve mental health in the workplace. Sounds easy enough, but how can you achieve this? Start by using the following simple, practical, effective tips for improving mental health in the workplace.

1. Address workplace stressors

How to address mental health in the workplace — creating a mentally healthy workplace starts by focusing on, addressing, and identifying everyday stressors that can impact employee mental health in negative ways. Stressors can include:

  • Excessive workloads
  • Unclear expectations
  • Inadequate resources or support
  • Poor or non-communication within teams between leadership and employees

Knowing how to improve workplace mental health involves addressing these known stressors.  

Tips for addressing workplace stressors:

  • Evaluate processes: Regularly review workflows, processes, and policies to identify areas to improve and reduce unnecessary pressure and expectations on employees.
  • Prioritize tasks: Help people prioritize responsibilities based on urgency so clear lines are drawn about what should be tackled first.
  • Create open lines of communication: Make people feel comfortable and confident coming to leadership when they’re struggling with any aspect of their work or life, including issues with management, coworkers, or if they’re having personal problems.
  • Offer adequate training and support: Employees should have access to resources like ongoing professional development opportunities to succeed in their roles.

2. Create a safe and supportive work environment

Offering a safe and supportive work environment encourages open communication without any fear of judgment. This can foster mutual respect among colleagues. It can also establish a sensitive and empathetic environment so when someone’s struggling, they’ll be more inclined to reach out for help.

Addressing mental health in the workplace means encouraging employees to share feedback openly. Offer opportunities for anonymous input and requests so everybody feels comfortable and confident voicing their thoughts or concerns.

Tips for creating a safe and supportive work environment:

  • Establish clear policies on bullying and harassment: Ensure all employees understand what constitutes unacceptable behavior. Offer training sessions focused on how to recognize signs of bullying and make reporting easy and confidential so people are willing to report a problem.
  • Maintain employee privacy and confidentiality: Ensuring privacy and confidentiality is crucial in fostering a safe work environment. Have regulations in place to safeguard confidential data and handle personal information.
  • Offer mental health support and resources: Equip employees with the resources they need to help them manage mental health issues. For example, you can offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), offer support groups, or host workshops focused on stress management and self care practices.

3. Offer & promote mental health benefits

Offering and promoting mental health benefits and resources to employees is critical to having a healthy mental health mentality in any organization. In addition, when leadership makes mental health a priority, it reinforces the importance of effectively and proactively addressing issues.  

Tips for offering and promoting mental health benefits and resources:

  • Offer mental health benefits: Incorporate comprehensive mental healthcare benefits into your existing healthcare plans. Consider covering therapy for employees, psychiatric consultations, and medical medication management.
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs): EAPs offer employees confidential advice on various topics, including stress relief, financial matters, interpersonal issues, and substance abuse.
  • Create a mental health day policy: Having a policy that allows employees to take no-penalty mental health days as part of their paid time off reinforces the idea that self care is an integral part of workplace culture.
  • Offer mental health resources: Simply offering mental health benefits as part of a package isn’t always enough. Actively promote the availability of these resources by including information in employee handbooks and onboarding materials. Regularly share articles or tips through internal newsletters, social media, or a webpage focused on mental health. Host workshops and webinars focusing on various emotional wellness aspects.

4. Encourage work-life balance

Encouraging a peaceful and harmonious work-life balance is critical for establishing positive mental health. Encourage employees to find balance, practice self care, and put themselves first by setting boundaries.

Tips for how to encourage work-life balance:

  • Offer flexible work schedules: Flexibility allows employees to manage personal commitments without the stress of trying to fulfill job responsibilities.  
  • Offer remote work options when possible: The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that work could often be done remotely without compromising productivity or quality of work. When feasible, offer remote work options, even if it’s just on a part-time basis.
  • Paid time off (PTO): PTO policies allow employees to take breaks from the hectic demands of their jobs. PTO can prevent burnout and allow employees to recharge and refocus.

“These days, folks are met with multiple stressors outside of work. And not having a handle on personal affairs, can negatively impact a productive work approach and also professional relationships and responsibilities. It’s imperative that employers offer employees time for personal needs, so that work efficiency is met proactively. We always feel better when we don’t feel stretched and getting that support from an employer is not only meaningful but also a sensible way to prevent losses and absenteeism.” - Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW 

5. Promote physical health

Encouraging and supporting physical health is an effective tactic if you’re looking for ideas on improving mental health in the workplace. Emphasize the importance of physical health by offering programs that promote physical and mental health. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. When you encourage employees to care for their physical health, the results can trickle over into attitude, mood, and performance.

Tips for promoting physical health:

  • Offer wellness programs: Resources and incentives encourage employees to prioritize their health. For example, you can reimburse or pay for gym memberships, initiate weight loss challenges, or start a smoking cessation assistance program. There are a variety of employee wellness ideas for physical health.
  • Provide healthy food options: Nutrition directly impacts employee productivity and mood. Promote healthy eating habits by providing access to healthy and nutritious snacks in the cafeteria or vending machines.  
  • Encourage physical activity during workdays: Encourage employees to take walks or do yoga during the work days. Create a designated space in the office for stretching or light workouts.  
“The research on work life balance is too plentiful to ignore. So too, is the benefit of psychological fitness resulting in work productivity. It makes perfect sense to not only encourage employees to keep moving but also to incorporate opportunities within the workplace environment and work day, to elevate their fitness fluency while boosting mental health at the same time. It’s a win-win that yields benefits for all. When we “feel” good we are more motivated, energized and focused overall.”  - Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW 

6. Educate employees on mental health

Education is a key component to improving mental health, and mental health can positively impact productivity, retention, and job satisfaction. Emphasize the importance of recognizing mental health concerns and ensure resources are readily available when needed. Not only does this educate employees about the importance of mental health, but it also helps reduce the stigma around seeking help. 

Tips for educating employees on mental health:

  • Conduct workshops and training sessions: Offer sessions covering various topics related to mental health and invite qualified professionals to lead training sessions. You can cover topics like mental health awareness, coping strategies for stress management, mindfulness practices, and suicide prevention.
  • Distribute educational resources: Provide resources for employees interested in learning more about maintaining optimal mental health. Consider resources like hotlines, mental health pressures, workplace wellness guides

For more tips, learn how to talk about mental health at work with your employees.

7. Foster positive relationships

Fostering positive work relationships directly translates to creating a healthy work environment, reducing stress, and improving morale.  

Tips for fostering positive relationships:

  • Create team-building activities: These can strengthen coworkers’ bonds and improve organizational communication. You can start with simple icebreaker activities and move on to more elaborate events, like company retreats or service projects.
  • Recognize achievements: When people feel acknowledged and rewarded, morale is boosted and employees are more incentivized to work harder.
  • Promote inclusivity and diversity: A diverse and inclusive work environment will foster positive relationships, atmosphere, and outcomes. Some research has found that companies that emphasize gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity perform better financially than competitors that don’t.

8. Provide opportunities for professional development

Opportunities for professional development create an environment that encourages employee growth, which can improve mental health. Employees who know they’re progressing will feel a sense of success, accomplishment, and motivation. Implement various strategies that support and encourage employee and personal growth and development.

Tips for providing opportunities for professional development:

  • Create training programs: Training programs let employees develop new skills relevant to their roles. They’ll enhance job performance and build confidence and self-esteem.
  • Establish mentorship programs: Pairing experienced professionals with less-experienced colleagues creates an encouraging atmosphere that enables personal growth.
  • Create career growth opportunities: Promotions, cross-functional projects, and leadership roles offer opportunities to boost abilities and bolster mental health.

Improve workplace mental health with Talkspace

Implementing strategies and programs designed to improve mental health is a significant first step if you’re looking for ways to improve mental health in the workplace. However, to further enhance mental health in your organization, consider partnering with a mental health provider like Talkspace. A partnership like this can enhance any organization’s best efforts to learn how to support employees' mental health in the workplace, resulting in healthier, happier, more productive employees. 

Sources:

  1. “Mental Health by the Numbers.” NAMI, June 2022. https://www.nami.org/mhstats.  
  2. “Mental Health in the Workplace.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, September 28, 2022. https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/promotion-prevention/mental-health-in-the-workplace.  
  3. Goetzel, Ron Z., Enid Chung Roemer, Calliope Holingue, M. Daniele Fallin, Katherine McCleary, William Eaton, Jacqueline Agnew, et al. “Mental Health in the Workplace.” Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine 60, no. 4 (2018): 322–30. https://doi.org/10.1097/jom.0000000000001271. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891372/.  
  4. Hunt, Dame Vivian, Lareina Yee, Sara Prince, and Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle. “Delivering through Diversity.” McKinsey & Company. McKinsey & Company, January 18, 2018. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity.  

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