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The importance of mental health inclusion in the workplace

The importance of mental health inclusion in the workplace

Research shows that more than half (53%) of workers feel burned out, and nearly half (46%) find their jobs too stressful. Prioritizing mental health awareness and inclusion in the workplace is a compassionate way to acknowledge how essential mental well-being is, especially for diverse populations. Supporting inclusive workplace mental health initiatives fosters a healthier, more productive, happier workforce. This employee mental health initiative also ensures people feel valued and respected, regardless of their mental health status. 

Integrating mental health into your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts shows your commitment to employee mental well-being. How do you establish an inclusive workplace mental health care initiative? Read on to learn more about inclusion and mental health practices that can create a thriving workplace culture. 

What is mental health inclusion?

Mental health inclusion in the workplace relies on creating an environment where people feel supported even when they’re struggling with mental health conditions. To achieve this, you must implement policies, programs, and practices that highlight the importance of prioritizing mental health. 

People should feel comfortable, confident, and safe discussing their mental well-being or when asking for help. Destigmatizing the negative connotations surrounding mental health and making sure resources and support are available and easily accessible for every member of your team is crucial.

Mental health’s role in DEI efforts

Mental health plays a vital role in a company’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. Organizations that address mental health challenges through a diversity lens—recognizing issues like depression, anxiety, and stress that affect diverse populations—can make significant progress in reducing systemic inequalities and barriers that disproportionately impact specific groups. It’s needed, too. 

For example, recent studies show that working parents overwhelmingly feel unsupported by employers. Minority employees also experience more discrimination when it comes to hiring, promotions, or pay because of their ethnicity or race. 

Benefits of prioritizing inclusivity in mental health initiatives

Incorporating mental health into DEI initiatives can increase morale and improve retention while contributing to a sustainable, equitable, positive organizational culture. 

Other benefits of inclusion and mental health measures include:

  • Improved mental health and well-being
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Reduced stigma about mental health needs
  • Improved retention/reduced attrition
  • Increased loyalty
  • Legal and ethical compliance
  • Improved recruitment outcomes
  • Overall organization success

9 Ways to improve mental health inclusivity in the workplace

You can consciously encourage mental health inclusivity in the workplace with strategies that encourage a supportive work environment and help people thrive. There are numerous ways to achieve this — the best tactics for your organization will depend on your people, their needs, and what you can offer. 

1. Promote mental health awareness

It might sound too easy to be effective, but simply promoting mental health awareness is an excellent way to promote mental health inclusivity. Making others aware can substantially reduce much of the stigma that’s traditionally attached to the topic of mental health.  

Organize workshops, seminars, informational sessions, and more to educate your workforce about various mental health issues. However, the education can’t stop there. You also need to make sure people know how to access the resources available. 

2. Offer mental health benefits

Offering mental health benefits is the clearest, most straightforward way to tackle mental health inclusivity. It allows all employees, regardless of background or mental state, to have access to essential resources and support. Including mental healthcare in your benefits package promotes a company-wide policy and culture of understanding that benefits everyone involved. 

Providing people with access to counseling, therapy, and mental health days shows that you’re committed to your workforce’s physical and psychological well-being.

The first step is to include mental health benefits in your comprehensive employee benefits package. Then, you need to promote these inclusive benefits by spreading awareness and educating people on how to access support that could change a life.

3. Make mental health resources accessible

Making mental health resources accessible to employees helps enhance mental health inclusivity by providing help when people need it. Accessibility encourages use, which can help normalize the need for mental health services. It also reduces barriers to seeking help—like distance or lack of time—that have historically prevented people from trying to get the help they need.

Provide 24/7 counseling hotlines, online therapy for employees, and self-help tools within your employee wellness program.

4. Ensure inclusive policies

Inclusive policies—like anti-discrimination measures, flexible work arrangements, mental health training, and awareness campaigns—help create an environment where employees feel safe and can share their needs without fear of retaliation. These policies lead to a more engaged and mentally healthy workforce.

To achieve this, develop and implement clear anti-discrimination policies, offer remote work options or flexible schedules, and organize mental health awareness seminars and workshops.

5. Provide mental health training for managers

Leadership should have professional training in identifying and managing mental health crises. This helps improve inclusivity because you’re giving the knowledge and skills needed to recognize mental health concerns. Training results in a supportive environment — but more than that, it helps leaders quickly respond with appropriate and effective accommodations that are often urgent.

Conduct regular mental health training for management and leadership teams so they can quickly and appropriately identify, support, and address mental health issues.

6. Encourage open dialogue

It’s important to encourage open dialogue about challenging issues related to mental health. This can break down barriers, and when employees feel safe enough to discuss mental health issues openly, it creates a culture of transparency, understanding, and support. 

Employees who feel they can be open are often more willing to seek help earlier and share their own experiences to support one another. Early intervention is a critical factor in successful treatment outcomes.

Promoting open dialogue about mental health is simple. You can start with:

Efforts like these will reinforce the idea that your organization is a safe space to discuss mental health issues and ask for help.

7. Foster an inclusive culture

Creating an inclusive culture is fundamental to improving mental health inclusivity in the workplace. An inclusive culture ensures that all employees feel valued, respected, and supported regardless of their background or mental health status. 

Here are some strategies to foster such a culture:

  • Celebrate diversity: Recognize and celebrate the diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences of your employees. This can be done through events, workshops, and initiatives that highlight different cultures and viewpoints.
  • Support employee resource groups (ERGs): Encourage the formation of ERGs focused on mental health and diversity. These groups can provide peer support, advocate for inclusive policies, and raise awareness about mental health issues affecting different communities.
  • Lead by example: Ensure that leadership is visibly committed to fostering an inclusive culture. Leaders should model inclusive behavior, speak openly about mental health, and actively participate in initiatives aimed at improving mental health inclusivity.

By fostering an inclusive culture, organizations can create a supportive environment where all employees feel safe, valued, and empowered to bring their whole selves to work. This not only enhances mental health inclusivity but also contributes to overall employee well-being and productivity.

8. Allow workplace accommodations

Offering workplace accommodations isn’t just the right thing to do — it ensures employees with any type of mental health condition feel supported in getting the help they need to do their jobs as effectively as possible. 

Some possible accommodations can include things like:

  • Offering flex work hours
  • Giving the option to work remotely
  • Designating a quiet space in the office where employees can go to regroup
  • Offering no-penalty mental health days
  • Encouraging extended breaks throughout the days
  • Making job sharing an option, if possible
  • Implementing gradual return-to-work plans for employees recovering from mental health issues
  • Allowing part-time or reduced hours so employees can focus on managing mental health in a positive way
  • Ensuring access to mental health professionals
  • Modifying job duties
  • Training and developing leadership to recognize the importance of supporting mental health
  • Establishing support groups
  • Ensuring confidentiality
  • Allowing time off for therapy and mental health appointments

9. Support work-life balance

Work-life balance for employees is a hot topic today. Encouraging employees to strike that balance enables them to successfully manage professional responsibilities alongside personal needs. 

Employees with a positive work-life balance experience less burnout and stress and report higher job satisfaction. For organizations, lower attrition rates are common when employees have balance between their professional and personal lives. Studies show this inclusive approach improves job satisfaction and performance. It helps people succeed professionally and personally, enhancing overall mental health and helping your company thrive.

Promote work-life balance in your organization by encouraging your people to use their vacation days and personal time off, offering flexible working hours or remote days when it makes sense, and creating policies that discourage overworking while supporting personal time.

Implement inclusive mental health support with Talkspace

Offering inclusive mental health support through your DEI initiatives guarantees your employees have access to the help they need. Partnering with Talkspace offers convenient, confidential access to qualified and experienced mental health professionals when, where, and how it’s needed. 

Talkspace makes virtual mental health resources available from the comfort of an employee’s home or office. It dismantles many traditional barriers to care, like the need for travel, inflexible scheduling options that make appointments difficult, and the stigma or fear often attached to in-person visits. Talkspace is an online platform that helps your workforce feel supported and empowered to seek help and get better. 

Companies that use Talkspace see substantial reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms across their workforce. Some research suggests that messaging therapy can reduce symptoms in more than 70% of participants, and half recovered completely. 

Reach out to Talkspace today to request a demo and see how you can incorporate inclusive mental health services in your organization. 

Sources:

  1. Workplace stress: The impact on Mental Health — talkspace, 2022. https://www.talkspace.com/research/stress-in-the-workplace.  
  2. Gitlin, Sarah, Ayushi Gummadi, Alexis Krivkovich, and Kunal Modi. “The Childcare Conundrum: How Can Companies Ease Working Parents’ Return to the Office?” McKinsey & Company, May 9, 2022. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/sustainable-inclusive-growth/future-of-america/the-childcare-conundrum-how-can-companies-ease-working-parents-return-to-the-office.  
  3. Reiners, Bailey. “46 Diversity in the Workplace Statistics to Know.” Built In, March 29, 2024. https://builtin.com/diversity-inclusion/diversity-in-the-workplace-statistics.  
  4. Susanto, Perengki, Mohammad Enamul Hoque, Taslima Jannat, Bamy Emely, Mega Asri Zona, and Md Asadul Islam. “Work-Life Balance, Job Satisfaction, and Job Performance of Smes Employees: The Moderating Role of Family-Supportive Supervisor Behaviors.” Frontiers in Psychology 13 (June 21, 2022). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.906876.  
  5. “Talkspace Research | Clinical Studies in Behavioral Health.” Talkspace.com. Accessed May 13, 2024. https://www.talkspace.com/research.  

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