mental health in the Workforce- a new era
Employers need to embrace the new reality and change their culture to ensure the success and longevity of their business. Shifting an organization's culture should be a collective priority and it requires commitment and a plan. To begin, employers need to assess the level of employees' mental well-being and what, if any, benefits and resources they are utilizing. From there, businesses can develop a company culture and wellness plan that addresses this new era of mental health challenges. The culture must be open, safe, and support mental health needs.
One of the most important things employers must recognize is that mental health is an issue for all employees. This includes shift workers, entry-level employees, middle management and C-level executives, as well. It's no longer an issue to relegate to human resources or an Employee Assistance Program. Employers need to normalize mental health challenges and work collectively to reduce stigma and address its presence in the workforce.
Managers can open up communication about emotional wellbeing by sharing their own experiences with mental health struggles. Employees, once afraid to disclose their struggles due to perceived ramifications, can then feel empowered and safe to open up about themselves. Open and non-judgmental communication creates an accepting environment that supports and encourages mental wellbeing. This in turn improves job performance, productivity and overall job satisfaction. Managers and supervisors need to be able to communicate with their employees about mental health issues, in a way that doesn't violate boundaries but clearly shows a concern and awareness of people's real needs. Supervisors can ask more than, "How are you doing?", but should be able to ask questions like ,"How can I support you better? What makes you feel happy at work?", or "What can we do to make you feel more effective in your job?". Supervisors/managers need to be aware of changes in employee performance and be ready to provide proactive support.
In order to stay competitive, employers must increase benefits for mental healthcare, improve resources, and increase accommodations available to their employees. Offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAPS) is a way in which employers can support their team. These programs assist employees in coping with personal stressors or issues that can impact their work performance and emotional well-being. EAPs connect the employee with a mental health professional for a specified time period. Additionally, modified work schedules, breaks, minimizing distractions, better lighting, and freely available snacks or drinks are all examples of accommodations that could promote a healthier state of mind.
Flexibility has become a key expectation and employers need to be creative in developing ways to accommodate employee's changing needs in the workplace. Offering hybrid work schedules, creating team-building activities, emphasizing employee self-care, promoting helpful resources, and training supervisors to recognize issues are all important things to include in an employee wellness plan.
This is a new era where employees expect more from their companies: where they expect mental health safety to be included on a daily and consistent basis as much as we support physical safety. - Tim Re, Psy.D.