Although we've made significant strides in talking about mental health, many employees hesitate to share their symptoms or difficulties with their employers. This is for a good reason. Nobody wants to jeopardize their professional reputation or cause problems.
But mental health is a corporate consideration, and you can't disregard how employee mental health affects performance, happiness, and workplace morale. As an employer, you set the stage for talking and modeling mental health in the workplace.
Here's what you need to know:
Build a Mental Health-Focused Workplace Culture
What does your current workplace culture look like? How do you implement a positive mental health at work? And when considering various tasks or measuring performance, how do you address mental health?
Mental health-focused workplaces are sustainable, flexible, and focused on maintaining an employee's emotional well-being. This doesn't mean you don't take productivity and outcomes into consideration.
Instead, it means you think about how you can achieve those critical corporate goals while also honoring your employee's needs and wellness. These types of workplaces typically entail focus on:
prioritizing a balance between one's personal and professional life
embracing inclusivity within teams
regularly soliciting feedback from employees
promoting positive connections from the top-down
Model Dialogue About Mental Health
Many large workplaces have an employee assistance program, and most employers are trained to recommend employees to mental health professionals. And while this is a helpful starting point, workplace mental health shouldn't just be an outsourced problem.
Think about how you can model discussing mental health problems in real time. Maybe, for example, this means disclosing your own experiences with a mental health condition. Perhaps it means asking employees about which mental health policies might be beneficial for them.
Other ways to focus on placing workplace mental health at the forefront include:
talking regularly about self-care
implementing stress management education regularly
knowing the risk factors for depression and anxiety disorders and talking about them
making it safe to talk about how employees manage stress and mental well-being
recognizing how job stress affects job performance
Be Mindful of Your Ego
Although it may seem presumptuous, it's important to consider whether you have an overinflated ego when it comes to managing your team. Do you, for example, judge people for having mental health issues? Do you assume that people should just get their act together or save their problems for their therapist?
Ego can directly affect employee mental health, and it can contribute to both poor communication and poor job performance.
It's important, therefore, to be mindful of any biases you hold about mental illness. Remember that every employee is unique and that mental health issues don't discriminate. Nobody is "choosing" to be depressed, anxious, or struggling.
Set Your Employees for Success
Have you ever heard of the infamous quote, People don't quit bad jobs. They quit bad bosses.
Research shows that over half of dissatisfied employees quit their jobs because of their bosses. And if they don't quit? They might keep their roles, but their performance will likely suffer, and their mental health could continue eroding.
So much of job burnout or job insecurity comes down to feeling inferior in one's role. While workplace stress doesn't necessarily cause mental health problems or substance abuse, it certainly can exacerbate certain symptoms.
When employees feel stressed (or lack a work-life balance), their overall health suffers. This not only results in lost productivity, but it also increases the chances of employees leaving the organization altogether.
Remember that most employees want to do a good job. Even if they have poor mental health, they typically feel passionate about their work if their employer backs them, believes in them, and makes a significant effort to validate their experiences.
The first step is to focus on your training and ongoing support. Do you know if your employees have the tools and resources they need to succeed?
Consider asking yourself these questions:
Do I micromanage employees when I feel stressed or overwhelmed?
Do I assume my employees know what I want with a given task?
Do my employees seem scared around me?
Do my employees seem disconnected or burnt out from their work?
Does the workplace environment feel toxic or negative?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, it's time for some self-reflection. Do you promote mental health in how you manage? Or do you act in ways that negatively affect mental health?
Regularly Acknowledge and Validate Employees
Mental health support often starts and ends with active listening. You aren't in charge of fixing or curing mental health disorders (and trying to do so is inappropriate). However, you can strive to be open and engaged when employees come to you.
Actively listening helps destigmatize mental health concerns in the workplace. Ideally, it can also act as a measure of prevention. When you are empathic and engaged in helping someone, you are focused on collaboration and problem-solving.
This helps your employee feel like you're on their team. If they're in emotional distress, they may feel that much more safe talking to you. And if you know what's really going on, you may be less likely to engage in poor communication or poor decision-making yourself.
Final Thoughts on Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace
Mental health isn't just a personal problem. Workplace mental health is as individualistic as it is collectivistic, and employers play a key role in supporting mental health within their organization.
You can't change someone's specific situation, but you can focus on promoting well-being in your interactions and culture. Rember that the best way to focus on enacting change is by starting with you. Even small steps in the right direction can make a significant difference in how your team feels and functions.
Is a mental health issue affecting your professional identity? Does a healthy work-life balance feel like an impossible goal? We see you, and we understand! At Resurface Group, we focus on improving mental wellness and strengthening your quality of life.
Contact us today to learn more!