The past two years' events prompted a worldwide mental health crisis, with the effects continuing to be felt in the workforce today. Many Americans have admitted to struggling with depression, burnout, and PTSD – ailments that were only compounded when also trying to uphold “business as usual” in their careers.
One of the few good things to come out of this is a greater awareness of the importance of supporting mental illness in the workplace. Companies are implementing strategies to determine how they can handle this ongoing crisis. To ensure their employees' overall well-being is looked after, companies are making 2022 mental health the priority.
What is fueling the focus on mental health in the workplace?
Stress is obviously a major cause of poor mental health in the workplace (it can affect job performance, interest, and motivation). We all know it’s been infinitely amplified over the past two years. The expectation of maintaining pre-pandemic productivity while navigating these unparalleled global circumstances pushed employees to their breaking points: so much so that since April of 2021, millions of Americans have left their jobs in what is now known as The Great Resignation.
The frontrunning factors that led to this mass exodus were that employees struggled with burnout and were deeply unsatisfied with their financial, physical, and mental well-being. Furthermore, according to Forbes, 70% of employees believed that their employers were not doing enough to address how to handle stress during such challenging times.
Granted, this does not happen overnight. While the pandemic may have magnified certain issues in the workplace (emotional, psychological, and social issues), it’s much more likely that they existed before everything went sideways globally. There are also, of course, outside factors like financial difficulties, troubled personal relationships, and bereavement that employees are expected to tune out between 9 am and 5 pm: all of which are naturally distressing circumstances on their own (and are far more common during a pandemic, let’s be honest), which only become more distressing when you’re expected to pretend that they don’t exist for 40 hours per week.
Smart employers are not tone-deaf, however, and some companies have always treated the overall health of their staff as a priority. But if the Great Resignation highlighted anything, it’s that there are far more companies that don’t think mental health is important.
How can employers address this?
A proactive approach is definitely the way to go, and the good news is that many employers are already implementing strategies to improve the total well-being of their staff. According to the 2022 Employee Wellness Trends report:
“Employers have accepted the responsibility of providing employees with adequate mental health solutions and plan to invest more in 2022. For 2022, the benefits that will attract larger investments from the greatest proportions of employers include mental health (90%), telemedicine (80%), stress management and resilience (76%), mindfulness and meditation (71%), and COVID-19 vaccinations (57%)”
So what can you do to create a more mentally healthy workplace?
- Invest in mental health training. Companies are now looking into mental health training for their upper management and HR staff so that they are better prepared to adequately address mental health concerns. Not only will this help with destigmatizing mental health issues, but it could lead to more open discussion and a greater willingness for staff to come forward when they’re struggling, allowing for more opportunities to find compromises or solutions.
- Foster a healthy workplace culture. Continuing off that last point, this means encouraging an environment where employees feel appreciated and comfortable coming forward with their concerns. Understanding that “leave your issues at the door” is not always an option, or revisiting office policies to offer more flexibility for your staff, could go a long way in helping your employees manage their lives and better handle any stressors that might come their way.
- Offer more resources. Companies that offered telemedical health services reported improved (and lasting) outcomes, especially during prolonged periods of lockdown measures. Employees with continued access to health services and support are more likely to see improvement in their mental health. Likewise, extended Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can provide better coverage to allow your staff to continue with their counseling or treatments, resulting in better overall well-being.
- Promote digital mental health tools. Ah, the age in which we live! There is an almost endless supply of apps designed to encourage meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation. While it is important to remember that these are not meant to replace professional health care, they can certainly help with recentering and refocusing throughout the workday. Additionally, offering your employees wearable technology (think Smart Watches) to help them monitor things like blood pressure, water intake, and stress levels, can lead to improved productivity, decreased stress, and better health.
We’ve all gone through a lot these past few years, and the impact lands differently on each of us. Keep in mind that your employees are human and that sometimes they might need some assistance in managing everything life is throwing their way. Offering comprehensive support will go a long way in making sure you retain your talent in a happy and healthy environment. For more industry news, please visit our blog, or subscribe to our newsletter.