How to Support Mental Wellness at Work

From job interviews to performance reviews, it often feels like employees are expected to be “perfect” at work. The workplace has traditionally been an environment where flaws are masked and images of professionalism abound.

But with a national conversation around mental illness on the rise—and knowledge that over 18% of adults in the United States experience some form of anxiety disorder—it’s no surprise that workplaces are starting to join the conversation.

Health and wellness are taking a more prominent role in company culture, and mental wellness is now a key part of the puzzle. 41% of employees report that their employer currently provides resources to help meet their mental health needs. That’s a great start, but there’s still much work to be done to ensure that all workplaces support their employees’ mental wellbeing.

How do you get started? Here are three tips to promote mental health in your office:

Get Leadership Support

A leadership team that cares about mental wellness can positively impact everything from to employee culture to productivity. Work closely with the leadership team to keep them informed on the types of challenges employees may face, like anxiety, OCD, or depression. Share articles, invite experts to speak on the importance of mental health, and train managers to effectively support employees.

Beyond these practical steps, the most important thing employees need from leadership is genuine empathy and kindness. Take it from one employee who alerted her team that she would be taking a mental health day. The CEO responded with a personal thanks for “help[ing] cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.” His response quickly went viral and clearly struck a chord. Being kind and supportive doesn’t cost anything—and it can go a long way.

Educate Employees

Let’s face it, you probably spend more time with your coworkers than you do with friends or family. Engaging with peers for eight+ hours a day can be exhausting, especially if you’re having a bad day. It’s impossible to be at 100% from 9-5, five days a week. While the workplace does require a level of professionalism, your employee culture should support coworkers even when they’re not at their best.

Consider offering informational sessions around identifying and addressing common mental health disorders. Employees may relate—or recognize peers who need support. Awareness is the first step toward a more inclusive employee culture. Regardless of whether an employee has a diagnosable mental illness or is just having an off day, your company shouldn’t shy away from offering help.

Make Resources Available

Mental health services are listed among ten essential health benefits required under the Affordable Care Act. Requiring providers to offer mental health coverage is a huge step toward ensuring that employees have access to necessary resources. How each insurance plan covers mental health services varies, but they must offer some coverage in order to stay compliant.

Beyond insurance coverage, in-house wellness initiatives can also boost employee happiness. Many companies have taken steps toward this with office yoga or meditation, onsite massages, and work from home flexibility. However, there are a range of creative and cost-effective resources you may want to consider:

Consider which of these alternative wellness offerings might resonate with your specific workforce. Not only will your employees thank you, you’ll also be making a positive impact on employee engagement and company culture.

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