An increasing number of employers are beginning to realize the importance of promoting a mentally healthy workplace. With half of all employees in the Toronto-Hamilton region having experienced a mental health issue and more than $17 billion in lost productivity due to these issues in the past decade, this new spotlight on mentally healthy workplaces has merit. It’s one of the fastest growing categories of disability cost, leading to long-term disability income, lost productivity, increased absenteeism, and economic costs of healthcare.
Though employers might understand that something needs to be done, they might not realize just how to broach the subject.
Here is a guide to approach mental wellbeing in the workplace.
Employee assistance programs that support mental wellness can help improve overall employee psychological wellbeing. These types of wellness programs offer supportive counselling to employees for work issues and life in general, information on living an active and healthy lifestyle, and encouragement for work-life balance. However, an employee assistance program is only one small part of the complex puzzle that employers face when it comes to mental wellness in the workplace. Other strategies and initiatives must accompany it.
Employers should also collaborate with their health insurers to better understand the unique challenges that need to be addressed in the workplace in order to ensure that personalized solutions can be implemented. For example, employers can then provide additional funding for psychological treatment programs in order to offer more accessible care and support a sustainable return to work, sponsor stress management workshops, facilitate the creation of work-based support groups, or invest in psychological health-specific programs as needed based on the employee population’s unique needs.
Building Links with Community Partners
In addition, employers may want to consider building relationships with community partners as a way to provide employees with additional information and expertise and connect them with available resources in the area. These partners might include community-based organizations, local experts, healthcare professionals, or advocates that offer psychological and emotional support.
Furthermore, employers should consider inviting peer-support organizations into the office for presentations and lunches to help employees hear from others who are living with similar issues and open up about their own struggles. These initiatives are low-cost, help reduce stigmas and negative attitudes about mental health in the workplace, let employees know where to go to for help, and reassure them it is OK to both discuss mental wellbeing and ask for help.
An emerging initiative to approaching mental wellbeing in the workplace today is based on positive psychology. With this approach, you would not only target people with current mental health issues or those at risk of developing them, but rather, focus on improving employees’ overall wellbeing. Making employees feel appreciated, supported, and fulfilled at work can help improve morale and mental health while also improving organizational performance.
No One-Size-Fits-All Approach
Poor mental health does not only hurt your employees, it also reduces corporate profits. As such, it’s important to include mental wellness in your business model. However, there is no one right way to create a mentally healthy workplace. All organizations are different, from the employees that work there, the leaders that run the company, the size of the organization, the work that needs to be done, the external influences affecting the community, and the external resources available.
That being said, consulting with employees, collaborating with your benefits provider, and developing a series of company-wide strategies, initiatives, and policies that continually maintain or improve the quality of health, working life, and wellbeing in your workforce can lead to better health outcomes for your employee population, as well as increased profits for your organization.