How to Create a Positive Workplace Culture for Mental Health
Mental health has been stigmatized for a long time, especially in the workplace. But as the workplace has evolved, most notably after the COVID-19 pandemic’s initial impact, so has the advocacy of mental health support. In fact, managing COVID-19 in the workplace has fallen to the fourth most common priority for employers.
While employers have a lot to focus on each year and priorities shift, mental health and overall well-being are remaining on top of the list for employers’ initiatives. A SHRM survey found that 38% of HR professionals believe they had successfully supported employee mental health challenges in the past year with 72% noting mental health as one of the greatest external challenges for most organizations. Additionally, enhancing mental health benefits and coverage is a priority for over half (51%) of HR professionals, up almost 10% from the previous year.
Like most issues in the workplace, mental health stigmatization cannot be remedied overnight. However, creating a positive workplace culture for mental health can definitely set up an organization for greater success in supporting its workers.
Establish a Mental Health Policy
The first step in supporting mental health in the workplace is establishing a mental health policy that promotes treatment, fosters inclusivity, and reduces stigma so employees with mental health problems feel comfortable discussing them.
Internal policies should address important mental health issues and topics, such as:
- Retaliation (i.e. reporting insensitive or inappropriate comments)
- Workplace Violence
- Compliance (i.e. American with Disabilities Act accommodations)
- Flexible work arrangements
Additional mental health policies should include processes and resources for treating mental health, identifying and mitigating risks, support for employees with mental health issues, and collaboration between departments, leadership, and external organizations to create inclusive, positive workspaces.
Promote Mental Health Awareness and Education
Part of the stigmatization of mental health comes from a lack of awareness and education surrounding it. Promoting mental health awareness and education can cultivate greater empathy, as well as encourage employees to find treatment and support.
For mental health awareness, you can kick off your efforts by encouraging mental health initiatives, such as celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week, creating an employer resource group for underrepresented individuals, or a podcast initiating honest conversations around mental health.
For mental health education, host a monthly webinar on beneficial topics like identifying signs of stress or mental health struggles, how to engage in difficult conversations, or ask HR to do a Q&A for employees to ask questions openly on company policies, legal protections, and general mental health concerns.
Whatever direction you decide to follow, be sure to implement it at the leadership level. There’s nothing stronger than having your leaders be the example for employees to follow, especially if you’re looking to build a positive company culture and are seeking a company-wide change.
Create Mediums for Communication
In any successful strategy, there is communication. Did you know that 87% of employees fear stress will impact their ability to perform their role in the future? That fear can be crippling and lead to more complications.
To help comfort your employees, create regular check-ins. These should be humanized conversations that focus on productivity, general health, and any concerns regarding well-being in the workplace. As a leader, leverage these conversations to discover ways to support employees. During annual reviews, create personalized plans that support the overall mental, emotional, and physical statuses of your team.
Another opportunity could be setting up one-on-one sessions with a professional coach—someone that can be within your organization, i.e. a learning and development professional or HR representative, or a third-party coach—that can help address mental health challenges, workplace issues, personal life conflicts or stressors, goals, and other topical items your employees feel comfortable sharing. These coaching sessions can be included in your performance reviews to improve feedback and support.
Cultivate a Workplace Culture Focused on Supporting Employee Well-Being
One of the best ways to build a positive workplace culture for mental health is involving organizational leadership. Setting the tone and structure—essentially, leading by example—can be the encouragement employees need to utilize the tools and resources to support their overall health.
Leaders can open dialogues on mental health topics, such as burnout, coping with stress, anxiety, depression, isolation, and more. While team members might have the paid time off available, 47% of them are unlikely to take time off to reset and refresh. Leaders who not only use their PTO and remain disconnected during that time can be the example their employees need to do the same. Practicing and encouraging self-care can allow workers to recharge productivity and find greater success.
Additionally, research has shown a correlation between physical health and mental well-being. Promoting physical activities, like getting up and doing stretches, going outside for a walk, or hosting ‘walking meetings’ can provide opportunities for employees to receive physical activity, bond with other coworkers, and increase morale.
Offer Access to Resources
While you can provide training and resources to help educate employees, employers and front-line managers are not mental health experts. Make sure they have the training and resources to guide team members to professional mental health support, both internally and externally. Posting and communicating pertinent information on the company website or intranet, as well as breakroom bulletins can also be beneficial.
Mental health remains a top priority both in the workplace and at home. Looking for a deeper dive into supporting your employees? Check out Namely HR’s Guide to Supporting Employee Mental Health.
Sources: WTOP News, AAB People, Koa Foundations, The Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health
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