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06 Nov 2023
by Lindsey Berger

7 ways employers can support employee mental health

Research shows a clear link between poor mental wellbeing and lost productivity. Yet only have of companies provide mental health support

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In recent years, the mental and emotional wellbeing of employees has rightly become a critical concern for employers.

Despite this, only half of companies provide mental health support for their employees, according to recent research by Towergate Health & Protection.

Numerous studies demonstrate clear evidence that poor mental health (mostly measured as depression and/or anxiety) is associated with lost productivity (i.e. through absenteeism and presenteeism). The mental wellbeing of the workforce therefore has a direct and significant impact on performance, medical costs, workplace culture and profitability.

However, employers can adopt several strategies and take many initiatives to maintain and improve support for their employees’ mental health.  

7  ways to support employee mental health

1. Making sure employees feel supported and valued often begins with employers recognising that their employees have personal lives and stressors outside of work and encouraging work-life balance.

Options such as flexible work, including remote work, core hours and workplace policies that allow for leave, paid time off/holiday days, or flexibility when needed, all contribute to a healthy and supportive working environment and ultimately create a more productive, loyal, and consistent workforce.

Similarly, setting realistic expectations in the workplace and encouraging employees to use their holiday days and disconnect from work outside of the office can be highly beneficial to workplace morale and overall employee satisfaction and stress reduction.

2. Encouraging regular breaks during the workday – allowing employees permission to relax, chat, and socialise with one another – can have a significant positive impact on their mental wellbeing. 

Breaks and time to refresh and regroup reduce stress, boost productivity and encourage a collegial and cooperative workplace culture. Designated break areas, or social events including snack/coffee/lunch breaks, go a long way to promoting social interaction and reduced work-related stress.

Remember, too, that it is incumbent on managers and senior staff to lead by example, and be seen to be taking time for themselves.

3. Fostering strong social connections in the workplace is critical to maintaining a healthy organisation. Social events, team-building activities, retreats and mentorship programmes can provide an effective way for employees to connect, work together and support one another, improving their own emotional health and the wellbeing of others.

4. Offering benefits and programming such as life event and crisis management services can play a significant role in improving the mental health of employees. 

These services provide comprehensive support for any and all major life events and stressors affecting employees and reducing productivity and efficiency.

Going above and beyond a traditional employee assistance programme, benefits solutions that help employees navigate difficult life events and provide one-on-one support for employees coping with difficult and distressing circumstances, cutting employee stress and anxiety, and improving overall mental health, are becoming increasingly part of the furniture for forward thinking organisations.

5. Including mental health benefits as part of a benefits package can not only improve mental health, but can actually be a lifeline for some employees. This means offering cover for therapy, counselling, psychiatric services, rehabilitation or addiction medicine coverage, among other important offerings, for employees with mental health challenges or experiencing a crisis.

6. Providing educational opportunities including training, webinars, or discussion groups relating to mental health awareness, stress management, and resilience, allows employees to address their own mental health needs or even recognise when a colleague might need additional support.

7. An important but often overlooked aspect of supporting employee mental health is reducing or eliminating the stigma associated with mental health challenges. Often, employees feel their mental health issues must be kept to themselves and as a result they never seek help and often struggle alone.

Employers can create open discussions about mental health, provide easily accessible resources, reading materials and programming in an effort to encourage employees to seek help when they need it. 

In addition, leaders, managers, and mentors who share their own experiences with mental health issues can create a culture of understanding, support and stigma-free inclusivity.

Ensuring that employee mental health is supported and stress and anxiety are reduced is not only good practice for creating a healthy, content and balanced workforce, it is also an investment in the profitability, efficiency and sustainability of any company.

By following these guidelines for workplace mental health support, employers are ensuring that they are creating an environment where employees feel supported and valued, and know how and when to address their mental health needs.

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