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The Importance Of Prioritizing and Protecting Employee Mental Health in the Workplace

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After the pandemic hit, it became crucial to implement practices to help protect and maintain employee mental health. The pandemic put a halt on the world, jobs were lost, people were isolated, workloads changed drastically and because of this stress, mental health was affected worldwide. Whether you find your business in a good place or a bad place, focusing on employee mental health should always remain a priority.

Mental health symptoms that can be recognized, especially in the workplace, can include depression, confusion, excessive fears, extreme feelings of guilt, mood swings, withdrawal, low energy, detachment, major changes in eating habits, excessive anger, and hostility. It is important to remember that mental health is not always easily recognizable.

Beyond normal symptoms, mental health in the workplace needs to be identified and addressed because multiple mental illnesses can lead to physical conditions that can also hinder employees from performing well. While some people can push past mental health and keep on working, there are physical symptoms that could make this impossible. These physical symptoms could be heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illness, muscle tension, joint pain, digestive issues, insomnia, and restlessness.

In a recent study done by Uncrushed, a platform and community for mental health awareness, we see some surprising stats about how neglected stress and mental health can affect workplace culture and business overall.

Illustration listing statistics related to an overview of mental health in the workplace
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Approaching Mental Health as a Leader

While a large amount of mental health responsibility falls directly on individuals, there are best practices that businesses can integrate to help alleviate workplace stress. When mental health and work related stress are put in the background, businesses can see a lack of productivity, decrease of employee morale, high turn-around rates, and unstable work environments. Luckily, there are many ways for businesses to help combat this.

Addressing Workplace Stress

Workplace stress can lead employees to experience extreme fatigue, irritability, and lead to mental health problems. While eliminating job stress altogether is not feasible there are plenty of ways to help manage stress before it leads to bigger mental health issues. Common job stressors include heavy workloads, pressure to perform, job insecurity, poor benefits, long hours, and hostile work environments. To help manage these, leadership can implement easy practices such as making sure workloads are appropriate, opening lines of communication to employees, addressing, and handling negative actions in the workplace, and recognizing and celebrating employee success.

Promoting Mental Health

For an extended period, mental health was stigmatized as something extremely negative. It was considered uncommon and people who suffered from this were seen as less than. As years have passed, we have seen the commonality of mental health issues and how both home and work environments can have a hand in making them worse. Businesses can help on the work end by embracing and establishing a workplace environment that is supportive of mental health. Management can do this by implementing social support groups, setting up anonymous portals for employees to reach out to leadership, offering mental health resources, promoting employee assistance programs, and keeping up regular communication with all employees.

Providing Mental Health Training for Management

Organizations are already making strides to make structural commitments that help create and cater to better work conditions and workers’ mental health. Change comes from the top, which means leadership can help take a hands-on role in prioritizing their employee’s mental health. A great first step to this is offering management training that can help them identify signs of mental illness, hostile work environments, excessive workplace stress, identifying employee burnout and learn how to address and handle potentially difficult conversations about mental health with their employees. Mental health experts advocate that it is an employer’s responsibility to invest in their employee’s mental well-being specifically in the workplace because it can help achieve overall success of not only employees but the organization as well.

Evaluate Your Business Benefits

Evaluating benefit offerings is important one two different fronts. The first is that a lack of benefits can cause a lot of stress on employees. Proper healthcare, vacation time, sick time and other benefits should not be deemed as a luxury. Great benefits can have an amazing effect on employee morale, productivity, and efficiency. Another way evaluating your business benefits is necessary is to make sure that your business offers mental health services. This could be perks such as therapy options, financial planning assistance, employee discount programs, and better healthcare coverage. Implementing rewards that focus on employee mental health is essential to creating a work culture that cultivates it.

How Employees Can Contribute

While management can make strides to help promote a healthy workplace culture that caters to mental health, employees still need to take steps themselves to help this type of work environment thrive. Individuals struggling with mental health or intense stress should immediately talk to management. Hiding and suppressing mental health issues can easily make them worse and while a business can offer tools to help, it is useless unless employees step forward when they need it.

Employees should be vocal about things such as workloads, issues with co-workers, their specific mental health issues, and feelings of being extremely overwhelmed. Employees can also help each other by helping create a safe workplace. Maintaining open communication with each other, addressing issues head on, and preventing bullying can do incredible things for employee morale all around.

With mental health practices being offered by businesses and employees stepping forward to help make a change, a business and its employees can only flourish from there. Creating a stable workplace environment, maintaining open communication, prioritizing mental health for all, offering resources, and encouraging employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance can help improve a business on all fronts.