An employee’s mental health includes how they think, feel, and act, as well as their emotional and social well-being. While mental health includes mental illness, the two aren’t interchangeable. An employee can go through a period of poor mental health but not necessarily have a clear, diagnosable mental illness. Additionally, an employee's mental health can fluctuate over time due to factors such as workload, stress, and work-life balance.

While 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness annually, a recent study by Deloitte revealed that less than half receive treatment. A study from the Mental Health in the Workplace Summit also found that mental illness is the leading cause of disability for U.S. adults aged 15 to 44 and that more workdays are lost to mental health-related absenteeism than any other injury or illness.

Given its prevalence, you can expect that employees at your organization are experiencing mental health challenges or mental illness. That’s why it’s so important that your organization creates a culture that supports employees' mental health in the workplace. While this may sound complicated, creating a workplace that is supportive of mental health and illness is easier than it seems. Resources are available to help you navigate this important aspect of employee well-being. Consider HR Administrators Membership Programs to gain access to tools, training, and support for fostering a mentally healthy work environment.

Here are five simple ways your company can support employees and their mental health.

Promote Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace

The first step to creating a workplace that is supportive of employees’ mental health is promoting awareness and destigmatizing mental health or illness. Provide resources to help employees learn more about mental health or mental illnesses and give information about how employees who may be struggling can seek out help. When you openly talk about mental health, employees are more likely to feel comfortable about the concept and reach out to managers or co-workers if they’re struggling. 

Encouraging social support among employees, such as an organized support group that meets regularly
Setting up an anonymous portal through which employees can reach out to let HR or managers know that they’re struggling with high stress and need help
Providing training on problem-solving, effective communication, and conflict resolution
Promoting your employee assistance program (EAP), if you offer one.

Offer Flexible Scheduling

Work-life balance, or a lack thereof, can affect an employee’s mental health and well-being. Employers nationwide embrace workplace flexibility to help employees better balance their work and personal lives. While this looks different at every company, workplace flexibility can include flextime, telecommuting, and unlimited paid time off (PTO) policies. Flexible schedules provide employees with job satisfaction, better health, increased work-life balance, and less stress.

Address Workplace Stress

Nearly 80% of Americans consider their jobs stressful. Chronic workplace stress can increase employee fatigue, irritability, and health problems. Additionally, workplace stress costs U.S. employers approximately $300 billion in lost productivity annually.
While it may not be possible to eliminate job stress altogether for your employees, you can help them learn how to manage it effectively. Common job stressors include a heavy workload, intense pressure to perform at high levels, job insecurity, long work hours, excessive travel, office politics, and conflicts with co-workers.
You can implement various activities to help reduce employee stress, which can improve health, morale, and productivity.

Make sure that workloads are appropriate.
Have managers meet regularly with employees to facilitate communication.
Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately—do not tolerate bullying, discrimination, or any other similar behaviors.
Recognize and celebrate employees’ successes. This contributes to morale and decreases stress levels.

Evaluate Your Benefits Offerings

Review the benefits you offer to ensure they support mental well-being, too. Evaluate your current health plan designs. Do they cover mental health services? Reviewing your organization's offerings is essential to creating a culture that supports employee mental health.
Similarly, see what voluntary benefits you can offer to support mental well-being. Consider offering simple perks like financial planning assistance (as financial stress often contributes to poor mental health), employee discount programs (where employees can receive gym memberships, stress-reducing massages, or acupuncture at a lower cost), and EAPs to support your employees.

Provide Mental Health Training for Managers

One of the most significant problems hindering mental health support at work is the stigma that surrounds mental health. Despite the recent moves in society toward destigmatizing mental health, issues still persist. To ensure that no stigma surrounding mental health exists at your organization, it’s important that you properly train management in recognizing the signs of mental illness, excessive workplace stress, workplace bullying, and fatigue. Moreover, managers should be trained to handle potentially difficult conversations with employees surrounding their mental health. Ultimately, they should be prepared to speak openly about supporting employees' mental health rather than avoiding the topic.

Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Workforce webpage to learn more.

Feel free to reach out to us for additional resources on any of the strategies outlined. We look forward to supporting your needs and contributing to the success of your organization.