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Cathleen Wright

 Tags: Mental Health

If you’re a business owner who wants your employees to become healthier, you may already offer some wellness programs. Wellness programs often address employees’ physical health and can help them build healthier habits like getting more exercise or eating healthier foods. However, mental health is also an important part of the picture. Mental illnesses are linked to absenteeism, lost productivity, and the use of disability benefits.

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You can take charge of employee mental wellness in the workplace by setting a good example. Try these five tips to encourage employee mental wellness.

1. Use All Your Vacation Time

As a business owner, you’re very busy and may feel like you don’t have time to take a vacation. Only 57 percent of small business owners plan to take a vacation this year. Twenty-six percent will only be away for a few days, while 61 percent will take a one-week vacation. While you may be perfectly happy to spend your time at work, it’s a good idea to get away for a few weeks.

Taking all your vacation time shows your employees it’s ok for them to use their vacation time, too. Employees will know they can take vacations without being penalized. During their time off, they can relax and recharge, and come back to work feeling less stressed.

2. Take Breaks Every Day

Business owners work through lunches and coffee breaks for the same reason they skip vacations. This can make employees think they should do the same thing. While you may not want to take breaks, it’s important to step away from your desk regularly to set a good example.

Every day, step away from your desk and eat a healthy lunch. You could even get some exercise during your break by going for a walk or run. In the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, take a break to grab a coffee or a healthy snack. Employees will start emulating your routine, and the regular breaks from work will help them feel more refreshed.

3. Become an Optimist

Did you know emotions are contagious? If you’re feeling negative, it can rub off on your employees. The reverse is also true: if you’re positive, you can boost your employees’ moods. Not everyone is naturally optimistic, but this is something you can change.

When you notice yourself thinking or saying something negative, immediately think of something positive. This can help you get in the habit of looking at situations more positively. When something bad happens, try to find some positive aspects. For example, losing a client may seem bad, but it’s an opportunity to find an even better client for your business.

4. Offer an Employee Assistance Program

Employees could have personal problems that are affecting their work performance. Problems like relationship issues, substance abuse, and legal problems can make it harder for employees to focus on their jobs. Having someone to talk to can help, and that’s where Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) come in. These programs provide confidential, short-term counselling to employees, and they may be part of a group benefits and insurance plan.

If you choose to offer an EAP, make sure your employees are aware of it. It’s not enough to hang an EAP poster in the break room and hope people see it. Instead, have a meeting about the EAP and let employees know how excited you are about the program.

5. Create an Accepting Culture

In some companies, disclosing mental illnesses can lead to stigma. It doesn’t have to be like that at your company. You can take steps to make your workplace comfortable for people with mental illnesses. Mental health training for you and your managers can help you talk to employees more sensitively.

Employees with mental illnesses may need accommodations to stay at work. Be supportive when employees need accommodations and protect them from discrimination.

As a business owner, you can take charge of employee mental wellness in the workplace. By implementing some or all of these tips, you can set a good example and help your employees feel better.

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Cathleen Wright

With over 30 years of experience, Cathleen possesses an ever-growing knowledge of all aspects of group employee benefits, combined with expertise in the evolving landscape of the insurance industry. She is HIAA and ADR certified, in addition to numerous other professional sales and service certifications. When not working, Cathleen can be found at home watching the Leafs or the Blue Jays, and if it’s summer, she’ll be unplugged at the cottage with a book. Year round yoga is a must to maintain serenity, and a glass of wine or a margarita doesn’t hurt!
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