mental health

How to Improve Employees’ Mental Health (and Why You Should Care)

Image Credit: Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

Employee health and productivity are driving forces for business success. However, there’s an element to these factors that’s commonly neglected by employers: mental health. Investing in the mental health of your employees could have the power to transform your enterprise. For instance, small changes to your programs, policies, and even office culture can set you up for much greater success down the road.


The Role of Mental Health

In case you’re skeptical about the role of mental health in a company’s performance, consider the following dynamics:

  • Performance. Your first thought might be employee performance. Mental health afflictions like depression and anxiety can make employees less focused at work. They can also cause other productivity problems that decrease your business’s overall effectiveness.
  • Presence. Employees suffering from mental health disorders are more likely to miss work days. This is especially true if those disorders are untreated.
  • Costs. Instituting a program to help employees deal with mental health afflictions may cost money. However, it will likely save you money in the long term. Like with any illness, treating mental illnesses proactively is far more cost-efficient than letting them spiral out of control.
  • Morale and support. When you support employees with mental illnesses, you improve their morale. Additionally, you show both your workers and your community that you recognize and care about the problem.




Key Developments to Watch For

Mental health is complex, and disorders can manifest in many ways. However, these are some of the most common mental health disorders and developments to watch for:

  • Addiction. Substance abuse disorders and addiction can emerge gradually. However, they can have a devastating effect on a worker’s life. Fortunately, there are many ways to support someone struggling with addiction.
  • Depression. Depression and related disorders, like bipolar disorder, can affect more than a person’s mood. These disorders can leave them without enough energy to work. They can also affect their physical health in other ways.
  • Anxiety. Anxiety disorders are about more than feeling nervous. They can lead to full-fledged panic attacks in certain situations. In severe cases, they may make the workplace borderline unbearable for the employee.
  • OCD and related disorders. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders can negatively interfere with an employee’s habits and behaviors in the workplace. These disorders make it harder for them to conform to expectations or work comfortably.



General Strategies

If you’re interested in lending more support for employee health, these general strategies can give you a good start:

  • Create an open, accepting environment

If you want your employees to feel comfortable talking about their mental health, you first have to create an open, accepting environment. Make sure you have a designated representative in your HR department who will anonymously field requests for mental health support. What’s more, this person should be available for a conversation on mental health-related topics. If you don’t have an HR department, consider making your own office available for staff.

  • Stress the importance of mental health

Host workshops or seminars. Alternatively, distribute materials that inform your employees about the importance of mental health. This will serve to establish a more positive, accepting environment. It may also call attention to issues that your employees don’t realize are issues.

  • Allow time and space to work through mental health issues

Your employees won’t be able to operate at 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. If and when you notice an employee’s performance declining, talk to them about it. They may be struggling with an unseen mental health affliction or a significant change to their home life. If this is the case, allow them more flexibility. Consider offering them some time off work to deal with the problem.

  • Create awareness

Mental health is much easier to deal with when you have a system of support around you. You can use your influence in the workplace to encourage all your employees to be that network of support. Raise awareness of various mental health disorders and challenges. Further, inform people about how they can be a part of a more supportive network.

  • Provide recommendations and resources

It’s unlikely that you have a mental disorder treatment specialist on staff. The best you can do is make recommendations for external resources that can help. Keep an index of national organizations and local treatment centers. And offer to provide this information discreetly to anyone who asks.


Simple Changes Can Make a Difference

You don’t have to invest thousands of dollars into a sophisticated program to help support employee mental health. Even a simple culture change can make a big difference. Take the time to address your employees’ most pressing issues. Then provide the support network they need to remain healthy and productive.