Mental health is a difficult topic to address in the workplace. Pretending that mental health concerns are not something effecting your workplace could end up costing you money. Studies have shown that people with untreated mental health issues take 5% more days off work, and considering that mental health issues affect one in four people, according to the World Health Organization, this is probably affecting your office—whether you know it or not.
That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your work environment is one that’s open and understanding of mental health needs. Right now, your employees could be dealing with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues in the workplace, and it could be affecting their work.
For the most part, your employee will have a disorder and not disclose their diagnosis, but still maintain a positive behavior and high level of productivity. But there are those instances where an employee may show signs of mental illness that are disruptive and counterproductive. In these situations, it is important for employers to consider the health and safety of all their employees. So how can employers make their office a safer and healthier place? Here are a few suggestions.
Break the Silence
Your employees may be hesitant to discuss their mental health concerns, and for good reason. As an employer, you can help break the stigma of mental health in the workplace by creating a welcoming and supportive space for your employees. They shouldn’t be afraid of repercussions if they speak up about their concerns for their own, or someone else’s mental health. Work with your human resources department to host a discussion about mental health within the company; or host a seminar that provides employees with education on how to manage mental health. This helps employees know that you are dedicated to improving mental health in the workplace.
As someone’s supervisor, it can be difficult, or even inappropriate, to speak with your employees about their mental health. While hosting whole company events to educate employees and open communication about concerns helps create a supportive atmosphere, it is inappropriate to single out employees or force people to discuss their private health concerns. That’s where an Employee Assistance Professional (EAP) comes in. As licensed mental health counselors are trained professionals who can teach supervisors about mental health and how to handle sensitive issues. Proper training and research is essential to addressing mental health in the workplace and fostering a positive and supportive community.
The best thing an employer can do to accommodate mental health is to offer a range of resources for employees to utilize should they have questions or concerns. Employers should consider providing health care plans that include mental health services such as counseling or therapy. You can also partner with local businesses to create an employee discount plan. Speak to businesses such as fitness gyms, counseling centers, and massage therapists to create a program that allows employees access to these services at a reduced cost.
Inform Employees of Time-Off Policies and Lead by Example
Your employees are working long, hard hours. Many of them task their bodies physically throughout the day to complete their jobs. It can be draining on the mind and body to work day in and day out without a break. It is crucial that you, as an employer, encourage workers to take time off from work and now work longer hours than they need to. If you’re noticing that an employee is regularly overworking themselves, it’s time to check in to see how they’re handling their workload and if there are ways that you can help.
Keep in mind that employees often look to their bosses to set the tone when it comes to taking time off and being accessible when away from the jobsite. If you are always calling to check on job progress, or coming to work when you aren’t well, your employees will feel they have to do the same thing. Be transparent about the company’s time-off polices and allow employees the time they need to recharge and relax when needed.
Managing employee health and safety is already an essential part of your day-to-day activities at work. Be sure you are maintaining open lines of communication by regularly following up with your employees. This can be done in a variety of ways. One way to do this is to poll your employees about whether they’d be interested in regular check-ins, and to ask how often they’d like them; one employee may welcome a weekly meeting while another may find it to be too much to deal with.
Be sure to watch for employees that seem to dip in productivity or are losing focus performing job tasks. This could be a sign that they are dealing with burnout or mental health issues. An employee who is not fully focused on their job tasks could inadvertently cause harm to themselves or someone else.
If you’re worried about an employee who appears to really be struggling, it’s important to set up a meeting to identify possible issues and find ways to better the situation. Consider changing their workload, allowing them to work from home, or helping them to reach out to your human resources department to get connected to other resources.
The health and safety of your employees relies heavily on their mental health. Employees need to be alert and focused to perform many of their jobs safely. While you may never know which of your employees is experiencing a mental health issue, it is important to do what you can to help prevent burnout and incidents related to mental health concerns. Of course, not everyone is going to want to open up about their mental health with their boss. Make sure that your employees don’t feel obligated to open up, but that they also know there are resources available to them if they need them.
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