How Employers Can Improve Employee Mental Health

October 24, 2018

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), October 10 is World Mental Health Day.  The goal of the day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilize efforts in support of mental health.  Every year has a unique theme, and this year focuses on Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.  Since mental health is a growing concern for employers, The Wellable Blog in launching a four-part series discussing mental health as it relates to the workplace.  Below are the weekly topics.  Subscribe to The Wellable Blog to receive email updates when the new posts are published.

Part 1 (October 3): Introduction To Mental Health

Part 2 (October 10): Scope Of The Mental Health Epidemic

Part 3 (October 17): Why Employers Should Care About Employee Mental Health

Part 4 (October 24): How Can Employers Help Improve Employee Mental Health

 

Resources To Promote Mental Health

As depicted by this series, poor mental health is an epidemic currently plaguing the workplace, and like any workplace issue, companies that proactively mitigate its impact will thrive. Fortunately, there are various means by which mental health can be effectively addressed.

 

Culture

Relieving the mental health epidemic in the workplace is a comprehensive effort that starts with company culture. Employers can offer innumerable resources and services to improve mental health, but these efforts are virtually ineffective when the negative stigma surrounding mental disorders remains prevalent. If employees feel ashamed of their disorder, they are significantly less likely to utilize resources available to them, so it is extremely important for employers to establish a company culture that is accepting of mental disorders.

A perfect example comes from an email exchange between a woman named Madalyn Parker and the CEO of the company for which Madalyn works. Early this year, Madalyn emailed her team a single sentence that not only made headlines but also made strides for the normalization of mental health as a topic in the workplace. In her email, she informed her colleagues that she was taking the following two days off from work to focus on her mental health, a notion that was commended by her boss.

The virtual exchange gained public notice after Parker posted the screenshot on her Twitter account, as many people were eager to offer praise to both Parker and the CEO. The strong response from the media depicts how infrequently employees are willing to disclose their issues with mental health in a professional setting and how unexpected it was that such a disclosure was appreciated by a boss.

The CEO of this company established a company culture where employees feel comfortable reaching out for help with their mental health issues.

 

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee Assistance Programs, staffed with social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals, provide employees with a variety of confidential counseling services to assist them with their mental health needs.

Despite EAPs being commonly overlooked and underutilized, these programs can be a valuable resource for handling mental health issues in the workplace. Nearly 97% of all companies and organizations with more than 5,000 employees offer some type of EAP. However, due to general poor execution, a persisting negative stigma surrounding mental health issues, and confidentiality concerns, less than 5% of employees who have this resource available are actively taking advantage of it.

Employers should work to break the stigma of mental health and encourage employees to utilize these programs more readily.  The solution begins with culture.

 

Onsite Mental Health Care

Onsite health care clinics are commonly offered to employees as a benefit, as research has shown that the availability of this resource decreases medical expenses for the employer, increases workplace productivity, improves longevity amongst employees, and reduces absenteeism. An effective way that employers can address mental health is by integrating mental health services into their pre-existing onsite clinics.

 

Stress Management Programs

Stress in the workplace is a primary catalyst for employee mental health issues, and its cost has recently emerged at the forefront of concern amongst employers. Many companies and organizations have started offering stress management programs to their employees.

Although these programs differ in composition, the main goal is consistent. These programs assist employees in managing stress through education, group counseling, stress management techniques, virtual coaching, and mindfulness practices.

For organizations on a budget, there are a number of free mobile app solutions, such as HeadSpace, that employers can recommend or promote to employees.  They can also see if an employee with experience in mindfulness or meditation could lead a class or leverage health plan resources.

 

Conclusion

Mental disorders are unique and can vary greatly between inflicted individuals, so different employees will benefit from different workplace initiatives to different extents. As such, the best strategy for employers when tackling mental health is to provide a variety of resources to employees as part of a comprehensive wellness program.

Topics: Corporate Wellness


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