Six Simple Ways to Create a Mentally Healthier Workplace | EAPA-SA

Absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased health care costs are just a few of the ways mental health issues affect an organisation’s bottom line, however, there are steps that can be taken to help employees build mental strength and enable them to stay as healthy and productive as possible.  Here are several strategies business leaders can use to create a mentally healthy workplace:

Create a wellness policy

  • In the same way that an organisation formalises their commitment to effectively managing employees’ health and safety, it should formalise policy regarding employee wellness. A wellness policy should encompass a holistic and proactive approach to ensure the physical, emotional and social wellness needs of the workforce, clearly stating the intent to achieve this and providing clarity over the organisation’s actions.

Make wellness a priority

  • Make workplace wellness a top priority for your organisation. Workplace wellness refers to the education and activities that an organisation may sponsor in order to promote healthy lifestyles for their employees and their families. Encouraging exercise, healthy eating, and participation in leisure activities is a simple way to support employees in building their mental health.
  • Leading from the top down will serve to demonstrate that management are practising what they preach and that employee wellness is a priority. Employees will be more willing to embrace health and wellness within company culture if they see leadership taking part in the initiatives.

Discuss mental health in the workplace

  • Openly discuss issues related to stress, depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. While the workplace is the most important environment to discuss mental health and illness, it is the often the last place employees expect to hear about it. Talking about stress management, self-care, and mental health in meetings and in email communications can reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
  • Employees don’t want to lose their jobs, damage work relationships or risk future employers learning of illnesses so the stigma of mental illness keeps them silent. When employees trust you won’t judge them for having a panic attack or curtail their career progression when they’re struggling with depression, they will be more willing to seek help.

Educate your employees

  • Provide employees with in-service trainings on self-care, stress management, and resilience.
  • Educate managers about the signs of mental health problems and train them to respond appropriately. A caring conversation between a supervisor and employee could be instrumental in encouraging that person to get help. Most mental health issues are left untreated because employees don’t recognise their signs and symptoms, passing off their issues as stress related.

These trainings are likely to yield dividends in the long-term while helping employees reach their greatest potential.

Promote work/life balance

  • Model a good work/life balance for your team and they will follow your example. If managers consistently stay late and work over weekends, employees will feel that they need to do the same.  Showing approval for employees who work late and arrive early, or expecting them to work from home in the evenings will have a negative impact in the long run. Without taking decent time out productivity is likely to decline, and employees are more likely to burn out.
  • Insist your employees take regular vacations where they are able to unplug from work and the office.
  • Encourage everyone to develop a full and rewarding life outside of the office. People who engage in hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and take time to care for themselves make better employees.

Promote EAP benefits

  • Offering an EAP benefit that allows employees to access counselling sessions is an important part of promoting a healthy workplace, but, many organisations don’t make sufficient effort in promoting the EAP and reminding their employees that they would benefit from accessing these services.
  • Regularly remind your employees to use the EAP and remind them of their benefits.
  • EAPs can help employees deal with the issues that detract from their performance, but they need reassurance that it’s free of charge and completely confidential.
  • While most employees don’t hesitate to take time off to go to the dentist, many of them are likely to be shy about addressing their mental health needs. Make it clear you support employees’ efforts to take care of their minds in the same way you want them to take care of their bodies.