While employers may understand the importance of workforce mental health, many appear to be struggling with how to address it. According to a 2021 survey conducted by consultancy firm WTW (Willis Towers Watson) 86% of 322 US employers (with 100+ employees) said mental health, stress and burnout were a priority – only 26% had adopted a well-being strategy.
Creating a workplace culture and structure that encourages and supports employee emotional, physical and social well-being is an important part to addressing mental health and preventing burnout. Here are three steps employers can take to creating a mental health friendly workplace:
1.TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
It is important to foster a culture in your workplace that is inclusive and promotes a safe space to talk about mental health. Employees may have a greater sense of purpose, feel valued and heard when mental health is openly part of work culture.
- Promote training, webinars, conferences, and meetings that include mental health topics to boost morale and increase productivity.
- Consider posting mental health-related staff and community activities in your break rooms, lobbies, emails, newsletters and media platforms.
- Use person-centered and trauma-informed language to help dispel stigma- for example person-first language and identity-first language
2.OFFER MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
Creating clear pathways and support (time off, sick leave) for employees to connect with counselors, therapists and other mental health services will help to communicate to your staff that their mental health matters.
- Share no-cost and anonymous screeners and assessments
- Implement and encourage use of onsite or consulting Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
- Train management and leadership with inclusive tools – for example the “Suicide Prevention in the Workplace Toolkit.”
- Consider the development of a mental health Employee Resource Group (ERG) to assist with a safe space for employees to share their mental health and co-occurring substance use disorders lived experience.
- Join an employer-to-employer business model or program specific to the hiring and retaining of people with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders. Doing so may foster a more diverse, inclusive, equitable and accessible workforce.
3.ENCOURAGE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
Expand physical wellness programs to include specific mental health programs.
- Allow time for counseling and therapy as well as mindful activities and interactions.
- Offer mental health days separate from vacation and sick days
- Look for opportunities to participate in community mental health-related events.