03 May Addressing the Undercurrents of Mental Health in the Workplace
The effects of mental health in the workplace are nothing new. But what has shifted in the past two years because of the pandemic is acknowledging and accepting the impact mental health has on employees individually and organizations as a whole.
The pandemic has made it okay to talk about mental health and harder to avoid the conversation because of the increase and speed at which it impacted our daily lives – both in and out of the workplace.
Addressing mental health in the workplace will only yield benefits, so why are we avoiding it?
Do Companies Purposely Avoid Mental Health Conversations?
Inherently, no. The challenge companies face is that they don’t always know what to do. Managers and leaders are not licensed therapists, nor should they pretend to be. The challenge lies in being aware enough and willing to provide the resources and support so employees can seek the help they need.
Managers and leaders need to be the conduit between the employees and the support they need, not be the support themselves. Whether you recognize and acknowledge it or not, it’s still there and will impact your business.
The Undercurrents of Mental Health
When mental health is not addressed in the workplace, it will erode your team. On the surface, things may seem fine, but if you’re noticing changes in your employee’s behaviors, productivity, or other patterns, it’s important to address them early. These undercurrents will not cease if left alone. The longer you wait, the more negative impact it will have on your employee, your team, and ultimately, your organization.
Turning away from mental health support will only cause higher turnover, reduced productivity, reduced engagement, and strained relationships.
Causes of Undercurrents
The causes of these mental health undercurrents vary from person to person. They can be related to home life, work-life, or a combination of both. People are human and walk through revolving doors every day between their work and home life, unable to separate the impact one has on the other.
In the workplace, it could be an employee feeling undervalued, underappreciated, overworked, or feeling taken advantage of, among other things.
While you may not always know the cause, it’s important as a manager or leader to create safe and comfortable environments, such as in one-on-one meetings, to allow your employees to be vulnerable to speak up so you can provide support before they get worse.
The more managers and leaders acknowledge that work and home directly correlate to an employee’s productivity and recognize how to support them, the more likely a company will be successful.
Ways to Support Mental Health in the Workplace
Similar to supporting your employees and teams’ physical health through medical benefits and fitness incentives, supporting their mental health shouldn’t be any different. Here are some ways you can begin to think about supporting your team from a mental health perspective:
- Create a partnership with a local therapist’s office
- Include mental health visit incentives (or pay up to a specific number per year)
- Allow for mental health days in your paid time off policies
- Conduct one-on-one meetings to allow a safe environment for employees to share challenges and opportunities vulnerably
As the pandemic has shifted and we’re beginning to see employees back in the office, we will continue to see more mental health effects. I believe you will need to be more cognizant of these undercurrents. It won’t be a quick fix, but it’s important to get started and work mental health into your leadership strategies, just as any other employee benefits.