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Why Your Company Should Make Employees’ Mental Health A Priority

Why Your Company Should Make Employees’ Mental Health A Priority

Regardless of your company’s size, there is no shortage of opportunities to take action on your employee’s mental health.

“Who cares” might be the two words that will have the biggest impact on your company’s employee experience — and the growth you can expect as a result.

Imagine an employee who is experiencing stress or anxiety on the job, for example.

If they ask themselves “Who cares?” with an air of futility, it may mean they don’t feel their organization is ready to support them in a time of need.

This could lead to the employee burning out, and having a negative impact on your customer experience along the way. It could also cause the employee to leave for a job that makes mental health a priority. That, in turn, will trigger the time-consuming process of searching for and hiring someone to replace them.

Contrast that with an employee who tells their friends and family they work for a boss “who cares” about their emotional well-being.

The details they share may go beyond their specific manager but the policies in place across the company that promote mental wellness. Working for such an organization not only benefits them directly, but builds a culture in which they identify as someone “who cares” about its mission, and the other team members who are helping them fulfill it.

According to Statistics Canada, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have only underscored the importance of paying greater attention to employee well-being. Recent data shows the proportion of working Canadians living with a mental health-related disability increased 2.3 percentage points between 2019 and 2021. This translates into 8.7% of employees experiencing these challenges today.

Research from the Mental Health Commission of Canada increases the sense of urgency. The MHCC says 70% per cent of Canadian employees are concerned about the psychological health and safety of their workplace, and 14% don’t think theirs is healthy or safe at all.

On the plus side, there is no shortage of opportunities for companies to take action on mental health, regardless of their size.

Transcend The Constraints of 9-5, 7 Days A Week

The traditional working hours for most companies has been in place for so long it has largely gone unquestioned. This is despite many different changes in the makeup of the labour force, shifts in demographics and considerations such as childcare or eldercare.

By seeking direct feedback from their employees, companies can introduce a range of policies that allow team members to manage their workload on a schedule that aligns with their personal demands. This could take the form of half-day Fridays or more flexible working hours that take into account dropping off kids at school or other appointments.

Send Friendly Prompts To Take Regular Breaks

Companies are naturally interested in boosting overall productivity, but that doesn’t mean getting so focused that employees begin to feel bogged down or unable to walk away for a few minutes.

Managers can be trained to encourage their team to make sure they take advantage of break policies, whether it’s enjoying some coffee or tea or just taking a walk outside for fresh air. This can also be done virtually through email, text or even a notification in Slack.

Make Mindfulness a Consistent Part of Company Culture

The concerns of meeting company goals while dealing with challenges in our personal lives can take up a lot of mental space. Even if some employees are familiar with the benefits of mindfulness practices, they may not have actually tried them or know how to start.

Fortunately, it costs nothing to sit still, enjoy a couple of deep breaths and to concentrate on nothing other than the regularity of your breathing. Meditation can create a sense of serenity and make space for new ideas. It also can be done in just a few minutes, either at the beginning or end of the day, or sometime in between.

Introduce The Ability To Work From Anywhere

After fighting through traffic and panicking that they’re going to be late, it’s no wonder many employees start their day off stressed. Reducing or eliminating the commute is just one reason why many organizations are no longer requiring everyone to be physically present in an office at all times.

Make sure you balance working from anywhere with regular check-ins so that no one winds up feeling isolated, of course. And consider how you can promote meeting equity so that regardless of who’s in a boardroom or somewhere else, they feel included and their voice remains heard.

Offer Employee Assistance Programs Or Similar Benefits

When you’re struggling with mental health, having to figure out who you can talk to and whether you can afford therapy becomes just another headache. That’s why many organizations have partnered with third party employee assistance programs (EAP) that provide many different resources to bolster mental health.

An EAP could offer a dedicated helpline for employees to call, for instance, or access to books and webinars that provide effective strategies for improving self-care.

In other organizations, it may be worth exploring whether the company can add or build upon its health benefits by covering therapy or related services.

Practice Active Listening and Leading By Example

Mental health challenges shouldn’t be a burden employees have to carry in secret. Part of being an effective manager is being ready to hear employees out and reinforce the fact they care — even if they can’t do anything directly to address the problem.

Employees also take their cues from the top. That means leaders should strive to demonstrate a balanced approach to work and to be open and transparent about their own commitment to mental wellness.

Who cares about mental health? Everyone — and so every company should make sure that supporting it becomes one of their top priorities.

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