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How to Support Employee Mental Health

How to Support Employee Mental Health

The question of how can a business support an employees mental health has never been more important. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report, shows that employee stress remains at highest recorded levels, with 44% of employees feeling stressed about their work. The report did notice a large difference however, between employees who are ‘engaged’ in their work compared to those who are ‘actively disengaged’.

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The steps your business takes to support employee mental health don’t have to be huge, and you don’t have to completely overhaul the way your business operates. We’ve put together 10 ways you can support employee mental health: Ranging from small changes you can make today, to systemic changes you can implement over time.

10 Ways to Support Employee Mental Health

Today we’re looking at 10 ways that your business can support employee’s mental health. The short of it looks like this…

  1. Have a structured onboarding process.
  2. Develop effective support systems.
  3. Be flexible, where you can.
  4. Offer support with their workload.
  5. Have regular one-to-one meetings.
  6. Look for the signs that someone is experience mental health problems.
  7. Give leadership and management training to managers.
  8. Provide an allowance for mental health sick days.
  9. Help employees engage with the company and their work.
  10. Make employee retention and recruitment a priority.

But to find out just how these can affect your workplace, employees, and how to implement these strategies, keep reading below.

1. Have a structured onboarding process

Supporting an employee’s mental health starts at the beginning, with the onboarding process. As an employee’s first impression of working for your business, it is crucially important. 

There are a few different ways that a properly structured onboarding process can support an employee’s mental health. You should ensure that your onboarding process:

  • A structured onboarding process increases an employee’s commitment to the workplace: And the more engaged an employee is in their work, the less stressed they are.
  • Establishes clear communication channels, so new employees know who they can speak to.
  • Makes new employees aware of any resources that the company has, or pays for, and where/ how they can be accessed: Such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs).
  • Helps to make a new employee start building work relationships, and feel like a part of the team.

Read here for more information on what an effective employee onboarding process looks like and how it can help your business.

2. Develop effective support systems

Speaking about support systems, it’s important to establish these processes and make sure employees know how to access them should they need them. Because for many, actually speaking up about mental health issues can be the hardest part. 

Making it absolutely crucial they know who they can go to, or what resources are available to them if they don’t want to speak to someone within the business.

The support systems and processes that work for your business may not be the same as what works for others. And to find that out, it can be a great idea to use anonymous surveys to gather feedback on workplace mental health initiatives, and overall employee happiness. 

This will ensure that you’re continuously improving policies that work for your employees, make improvements in areas which need more support, and even remove those which your employees aren’t seeing any benefit from. 

3. Be flexible, where you can.

When someone is experiencing stress that’s due to work and sometimes that’s due to factors outside of work, it can mean that they need a bit more flexibility. This can include:

  • Flexible working hours to help someone get their work done when they can.
  • Working from home: Although with regular catch-ups to make sure they don’t become isolated.
  • Flexible breaks or lunches: Instead of an hour off for lunch, some employees would prefer three 20 minute breaks that help them to avoid becoming overwhelmed by work.
  • Providing leave at short notice, to give employees time off for appointments related to mental health.

Not only can this flexibility massively help your employees, just the knowledge that the support is there if they need it can be support for employees.

4. Offer support with their workload.

Often, employees struggle with mental health most during stressful work periods: Big projects, deadlines, crunch times. Which means managers need to pay extra attention to their team to notice any changes, or be ready to step in and offer support.

This can mean more regular one-to-one meetings that can be used to ensure that projects are on track, that employees have the support they need, and are still feeling positive about their work.

The support you give to employees can come in multiple different ways that depends on your business:

  • Reduction of workload and responsibilities.
  • Additional training or coaching, to help them feel more confident in their work.
  • Increased support from their direct manager.
  • Mentorship or support from a colleague.

5. Have regular one-to-one meetings.

On the subject, regular one-to-one meetings are a great opportunity to check in with employees about their mental health and wellbeing: As well as an opportunity for employees to address the subject in a private and confidential setting.

And sometimes employees aren’t comfortable addressing the subject: But regular one-to-one meetings give managers the opportunity to notice changes in an employee that indicates they are struggling with mental health.

6. Look for the signs that someone is experience mental health problems.

During these one-to-one meetings and during the regular workday, you should strive to be aware of the signs that someone is experiencing mental health struggles. These can look like (but aren’t limited to):

  • Noticeable changes in people’s behaviour or how they interact with colleagues.
  • Changes in their work output, motivation and focus.
  • Struggling to make decisions, with organisation, or with finding solutions to problems.
  • Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they previously enjoyed.
  • Changes in eating habits, appetite and increased smoking and drinking.

7. Give leadership and management training to managers.

Your business’s managers are uniquely positioned to recognise the signs that employees are struggling with their mental health. However, your managers may well need training to know what to look for, and how to address issues when they see them.

This can mean introducing training for managers to better equip them with the skills they need to support the members of their team, such as online training from established mental health professionals like Mind.

8. Provide an allowance for mental health sick days.

Sometimes all your team needs is some time away from work, to recharge and come back well-rested. Or sometimes your team needs a short-term break from work at short notice, without needing to justify why they need the time off. For both of these and for more reasons, it can be great to offer your employees some mental health sick days, for no questions asked days off.

Work benefits like these show your employees that the support is there if they need it, and can also be a boost for things like recruitment efforts: As they show employees that you’re a business that genuinely cares about its employees.

9. Help employees engage with the company and their work.

Gallup’s State of the Workplace Report showed that employees who are engaged with their job and work statistically are 26% less likely to feel stress in their day-to-day work. 

While it is difficult to argue whether this is direct correlation or causation, it does show a distinct link between employee mental health regarding the workplace and employee engagement.

Meaning a significant step you can take to support employee mental health, is to find ways to increase employee engagement. What this looks like will depend on your organisation and how your business operates, but it could look like any one of these:

  • Social and team-building activities.
  • Give employees a voice in individual, team, and company decisions.
  • Clear and transparent communication about company goals, changes, and achievements.
  • Regular recognition and appreciation of employees, to reinforce a positive work environment.

10. Make employee retention and recruitment a priority.

Employee attrition can have a huge negative impact on a business: On productivity, company culture and employee mental wellbeing. So while not often considered in terms of supporting employee mental health, employee retention and recruitment are absolutely crucial in ensuring a positive work environment for your employees.

Employees leaving can have a negative effect on employee morale, while also increasing the potential workload for the remaining employees, adding further stress. This in turn can increase the rate of employees leaving, and quickly snowball.

One of the best steps you can take to support employee mental health is to ensure your team isn’t being overworked, overstressed, and enjoy their time at work.

And of course, when you do need to hire, it can be helpful to have a recruitment partner who is already familiar with your business, and ready to find someone who is right for you.

In Conclusion

Employers play a crucial role in supporting their employees’ mental health, now more than ever. Creating an environment where employees enjoy their work, feel comfortable speaking about their own struggles, and have access to all the appropriate resources should be the goal of every organisation.

Because the positive impact it can have on an employees life both inside and outside of work, and the overall productivity of the company can’t be understated.

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