A Guide to Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace
Close to two-thirds of adults surveyed in the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America poll reported that their lives have been forever changed by the pandemic. Many reported worse mental health, lower physical activity, disturbed sleep, and increased reliance on unhealthy habits, which all have an impact on the workplace and productivity. This means that investing in the well-being of your employees is more important than ever as we continue to grapple with how our lives have changed due to COVID-19. Equipping workers with tools to manage daily stress is the key to combatting poor employee mental health, and protecting your bottom line. Continue reading for five research-supported components that are essential to supporting employees’ mental health.
Train managers to promote health and well-being
Managers and supervisors who work directly with employees are key to implementing and sustaining your policies and procedures, as well as creating a supportive environment. Midlevel managers are often the gatekeepers of employee well-being, meaning they determine whether employees can utilize the benefits and resources your business offers.
Consider training your managers in mental health awareness training (MHAT) to help them support employees. Educating managers in respecting work-life harmony is also important. Teaching managers to view employees as whole people with complex lives can help employees to better manage their work and life responsibilities and improve job performance and employee satisfaction.
Training your managers in physical-and-mental-health-promoting practices can also help them to lead by example, and improve their own health along the way. Providing diversity, equity, and inclusion training can also support employee mental health as they require leaders and managers to understand and carry out their business’ inclusive policies and practices, welcome diverse points of view, and foster a psychologically safe workplace.
Increase employees’ options for where, when, and how they work
Providing employees with flexible hours can also help their mental health. Though virtual work is not feasible in the HVACR industry, hybrid or flexible options could help people with caregiving or other responsibilities. The key is to give employees the power to select from an array of reasonable options that balance business needs with their personal circumstances.
Reexamine health insurance policies with a focus on employee mental health
Research supports the connection between mental health disorders and decreased work productivity, which is why access to health insurance with mental health coverage is so important. At a minimum, your business’ health insurance benefits should reflect the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which requires health insurers to provide coverage for mental health, behavioral health, and substance use disorders that are comparable to their physical health coverage. This law applies to all commercial insurance plans, union-negotiated plans, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Listen to what your employees need and use their feedback to evolve
Forty-eight percent of employees say lack of involvement in decisions contributes to stress in the workplace (APA, October 2021). When employees feel they have a voice in business decisions, they are more likely to remain in their position. Research shows that the psychological benefits are especially great when leaders not only solicit employee feedback but explicitly use it to inform their decisions.
Ask staff for their input on company-wide policies and use tools like anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes, and focus groups to gather feedback and create opportunities for employees to make their voices heard.
Take a critical look at diversity, equity, and inclusion policies
Providing an inclusive and equitable work environment is integral to having a psychologically healthy workplace. Experiences of interpersonal and organizational inequity and discrimination are highly connected to stress and can propel people to leave their jobs.
Data is clear that companies with high levels of diversity perform better, especially when management is diverse. Policies that ensure equity among employees encourage participation from more diverse voices, which can benefit overall business health. Diversity is not just a “good thing to do” but necessary to help businesses thrive. When employees of different abilities or socioeconomic backgrounds feel they have equal access to job promotions and other related incentives, they’ll be more likely to contribute meaningfully while at work. Provide practical tools and resources to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion skills and knowledge and to foster inclusivity.
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