Employee Mental Health Should be a Priority More Than Ever
You’ve heard it countless times this past year. The words “the new normal” pop up almost everywhere, referring to the workplace transformation that has taken place as a result of Covid-19. The drastic change to a fully functioning remote workplace has become one of the most talked about topics of 2020, which also ties in directly to the conversation around mental health.
Though many remote workers enjoy the flexibility and lessened commute time that comes with this change, Canadian reports of anxiety and depression are higher than ever before, with the Canadian Mental Health Association reporting that 1 in 5 Canadians are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental health issues.
Working from home or in other words, “the new normal”, has blurred the boundaries of work and regular life, leading to increased mental health challenges that employers need to recognize and address.
Why Should You Care?
People are a company’s biggest asset. It should be clear that the health and wellbeing of employees is critical towards an organization’s success. Poor mental well-being and work-related stress is related to lower productivity, higher turnover, and poor organizational performance. These consequences are extremely costly to an organization. Frequently, they can cost more than the initial amount it would cost to provide support in the first place.
In other words, people bring value to an organization, and companies should listen to their needs and act accordingly. Supporting your employees will boost productivity, morale, and commitment, enabling your team to reach their full potential.
Mental health is a priority, and employers have a responsibility to support health, safety, and wellbeing.
How Can You Prioritize Mental Health Remotely?
1. Offer Employee Mental Health Benefits
Including mental health benefits in your employee benefit plan is a foolproof way of offering support to your team. One form of this can take the form of EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs). EAPs are services that help employees with personal or work-related problems. Introducing EAPs or building upon your existing plan can contribute towards a higher level of wellbeing in the workplace.
Mental health apps are seeing an increased demand, and can prove to be a fun and engaging way to view mental health resources. Consider offering these as a full benefit or even a subsidized perk!
2. Fostering Relational Connection and Provide Opportunities for Social Interaction
The loneliness that arises from working at home can be drastic, leading to a number of mental health issues. Therefore, it is important to foster relational connection and provide opportunities for employees to connect with one another. Company socials can prove to be an effective way to have fun and get to know each other better. This will help build a supportive environment where employees are more connected despite the online setting.
3. Consistent Check-Ins
As a manager, it’s important to regularly check-in with your team! Daily, and more importantly, intentional check-ins can be a great way to keep up face-to-face interactions. This also ensures that your employees aren’t feeling disconnected or out of the loop. Use this time to not only go through progress goals and expectations for the day, but also to get to know their personalities and what makes them tick.
4. Mental Health Days
Consider allowing mental health days to employees who need it. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Unfortunately, struggling significantly internally can look a lot different than struggling with a broken bone. If an employee needs a day off for a physical injury, the same courtesy should extend to mental illness.
5. Increase Flexibility
Working from home can be difficult and tiring, and this situation requires constant adaptation to one’s needs. Therefore, flexibility is essential towards a home workplace’s success. In fact, proactively offering flexibility can help your employees more than you know. If your employee needs to take a break to go to an appointment or to get some fresh air, be flexible! Focus on weekly output goals instead of hours worked, and it can greatly impact their wellbeing while lessening stress and burnout.
6. Being Vulnerable
We get it, being vulnerable can be tricky and even terrifying to some. However, being honesty about your own experiences can breed trust within a team and normalize speaking up. Speaking about the challenges you’ve faced is representative of authentic leadership. This in turn can make your teammates see you as more genuine and brave.
A Long Term Perspective...
Overall, we’ve discussed a few mental health initiatives and practices you can incorporate into your own workplace. When looking towards the future, sustainable long term changes must be made to experience success, which stems from the workplace culture itself.
Focus on building a culture that revolves around employee care, and you might find that mental health issues may be easier to organically identify and prevent before they affect your organization’s most important assets.