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Mental Health In the Workplace

The Importance of Advocating Mental Health in the Workplace

The last few years have seen significant changes in the way workplaces operate. For instance, remote work setups started to gain popularity, and calls for more diverse workplaces have also come into the discussion. These changes have shifted experiences and struggles from an employer's and employee's perspectives.

As you grapple through these new environments, you may lose track of your most important asset in the company: your employees.

Mental Health and the Workplace

The modern workplace entails adjustments and demands for more competitive operations. Due to this, employees find it challenging to deal with the frustrations and anxieties that come with the changes.

Moreover, the high competition and fast-paced business environment can give way to numerous problems that can cause mental health concerns. Some examples include burnout, stress, excessive workload, social stigma, and workplace harassment. These issues may even jeopardize the company's overall function if left unchecked.

Many often see compromised mental health in the workplace. However, times are changing. And advocating for workforce mental health can be a game changer for any company or business.

Your role in the company as an employer, a manager, or an Human Resource professional puts you at the center of ensuring the employees' well-being. As such, you must create measures and actively create a safe workplace environment.

Here are a few steps to help you start advocating for mental health in your workplace.

4 Steps to Advocating Mental Health in the Workplace

Step 1: Start the culture within you

Advocating for mental health wellness in the workplace creates a ripple effect, starting from you. As cliche as it sounds, you cannot simply encourage or influence the people around you if you do not practice what you preach. You must develop self-compassion to make positive changes in the office.

Self-compassion means "the capacity to express kind and compassionate feelings to oneself, including self-kindness, self-acceptance, mindfulness, and sense of common humanity upon facing difficulties or challenges."

Your schedule may often get the best of you. The work stress and pressure demanding your attention may push your mental health to the side. However, embodying your advocacy for mental health awareness and effective work-life balance may help solve this issue.

Studies show that leaders who walk their talk positively influence people around them. But, these leaders are often oblivious to this impact. Even so, starting the movement makes building healthy work relationships with your employees easier and creates a ripple effect on mental health and wellness.

Step 2: Foster a positive and healthy work environment

Embodying a warm and approachable presence creates an open line of communication. It makes employees feel secure to freely express their thoughts, frustrations, and problems at work with you. This presence establishes a positive connection between you and your employees and avoids building up unresolved issues that can lead to toxicity in the workplace.

Internalized empathy

Of course, fostering this type of environment is challenging. So, from a manager's or HR's perspective, how can you translate self-compassion into empathy toward your employees?

  1. First, you must understand that even if you pay employees to work, it does not mean their emotions and feelings are unimportant.
  2. Collaborate with employees in formulating manageable and feasible schedules and workloads.
  3. Recognize that the demands of their personal lives will sometimes conflict with their work.
  4. Stimulate a workplace where employees have a say over their duties, advancement opportunities, and safety.
  5. Commend them in public but provide constructive feedback in private.
  6. Ensure that their workload is efficiently proportionate to their time and capacity

Employer-employee connections

From a physiological standpoint, employees perspective of their bosses affects their mental functions and mechanisms. Employers who seem unsympathetic activate avoidance mechanisms and negative emotions among employees. However, compassionate superiors can position themselves as someone who can nourish a resilient workforce.

So, how do you create this healthy relationship? Start by asking if they have work concerns or troubles and gradually build to integrate the habit of checking on employees. Doing so keeps the line of communication open and makes employees feel empowered. It also creates an opportunity for you to show your commitment to addressing the concerns they raise.

A study reveals that small talks in the workplace create more positive emotions, reduces burnout, and increases employees' willingness to help. These conversations should, however, be regulated to avoid getting in the way of duties and employee disruptions. Nevertheless, it creates connections within the organization.

You can join them over meals and strike up a conversation on non-work-related topics. Initiate sharing bits of your day with them, something everyone can relate to. Don't forget to recognize their hard work and be encouraging when they feel doubtful.

Positive work relations among employees

A healthy bond between employees is essential for teamwork. Create opportunities for employees to spend time together through team-building activities and peer-to-peer engagement. Most importantly, treat all employees fairly.

Employees spend at least half of their week for many years working together. Thus, the company can benefit from establishing lasting employee bonds to optimize collaboration and increase productivity.

Step 3: Initiate mental health discussions

Mental health is still widely stigmatized. Due to this, the topic remains challenging to discuss in the workplace. A study revealed that employees who experience depression do not confide their condition with employers and forgo professional help for fear of its impact on their jobs.

Taking steps to start dealing with the subject will gradually normalize the discussion on mental health. It can create a safe space for employees to be more open about their thoughts and experiences. These safe spaces should also include confidentiality of matters discussed to ensure the safety and wellness of your employees.

Integrate mental health advocacy as early as the company's hiring process. You can do so by elaborating on your mental health perks and encouraging new hires to identify their needed mental well-being support.

Once the conversations start, take note of your employees' common concerns and experiences. You can make them the bases for mental health wellness programs, policies, and guides in the workplace.

Establish wellness programs and accessible mental health support

As someone who manages the employees, ensuring that they have enough access to mental health support and resources from the company is one of your primary duties. These will help minimize work stress and release toxicity.

But how do you know which resources they need?

Survey your employees and collate all their feedback, recommendations, and concerns. Those shall serve as your main bases on what to establish and implement. Here are a few examples:

  1. free consultations with counselors on lifestyle coaching and self-management;
  2. orientations on recognizing symptoms and indications of mental health conditions;
  3. seminars and training on dealing with work-related stress;
  4. mental health breaks;
  5. promotion of work-life balance by enforcing lunch breaks, 15-minute breaks between work hours, and respecting employee boundaries on personal time;
  6. establishment of guides on mental health wellness in the workplace
  7. provision of recreational or meditation spaces; and
  8. company-sponsored access to recreational packages, travel, and wellness apps

These policies should be written to show your commitment to this advocacy. Furthermore, establish scheduled mental health self-assessments to keep track of the employees' progress and provide interventions when necessary.

A healthy mind is a productive mind

Mental health issues interfere with employees' wellness. In effect, it also affects their job performance and productivity. An employer's mentally sound working environment safeguards employees from these concerns and boosts their productivity. And there are several ways to do so.

You can create a safe and healthy work environment by starting the movement yourself and providing your employees with the right tools and avenues.

Contributor
Jeffrey Cassells

Content Strategist and Consultant, Shegerian & Associates, Inc.

United States of America, California, Santa Monica

Jeffrey is a writer by profession and an artist at heart. He is currently a content strategist and consultant for Shegerian Associates, aiming to make employee rights information more accessible. Jeff works on abstract pieces in his art room when he not writing.

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