How and Why to Create a Culture of Support
Employee mental well-being is as important as physical health. Mentally and physically sound employees are more resilient and are prepared for the daily stresses of work. Employees who struggle with their mental health are more likely to develop chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and substance use disorder.
On the other hand, an employee with strong mental health translates to positivity in the office and confidence in their abilities. Confident employees engage with coworkers and workplace activities and have an interest in building their skills and adding to office morale.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), employers spend about $15,000 more per year on employees who experience mental distress. Employers are in a powerful position to influence workplace culture and destigmatize issues around mental health. Caring about your employees is simply the right thing to do, and additional benefits of improving employee mental wellbeing include:
• Reduced absenteeism, presenteeism, burnout, turnover, and healthcare costs
• Increased engagement, better decision making, and increased retention
How to Create a Culture of Support
• Lead by Example: Leadership has to believe in the program, agree to behaviors that promote organizational wellness, and practice what they preach. Additionally, organizations should train leaders to recognize, approach, and offer help to people who may be struggling.
• Encourage Breaks: This will help employees manage stress and refocus on the rest of the day. Everyone recharges differently. Here are some ideas: Take a walk outside for 15 minutes. Get up from your desk and drink water. Listen to a song that takes your mind off work. Watch a YouTube video that makes you laugh. If you absolutely can’t get away from your desk, spend 90 seconds taking 10 deep breaths.
• Promote Mental Health Resources: This can be an informal group where people meet to discuss mental well-being, or you may offer peer coaching or therapy support through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and health benefits for people who need one-on-one support. Communicate regularly about these resources so people know how to access them – and let them know which ones are confidential. Employees may be more likely to get help for their mental well-being if they know their employer won’t find out about it.
• Educate Employees: Communicate through lunch and learns, e-newsletters (Mental Health Mondays), virtual tools like a video library, a health and wellness program, or anything that provides the information they need to understand how to manage mental well-being. Tip: Share your own story or start with a topic like stress management. People may be hesitant to admit they struggle with mental well-being, yet many experience stress or are willing to share after someone else.
Mental well-being is critical to organizational wellness. While it does require a commitment from leadership, it’s well worth the investment. In fact, the NSC reports a $4:1 return on investment in workplace mental health.
With those results, employers can’t afford to ignore employee mental well-being.
Bridget Kelly is Vice President of Growth and Strategic Partnerships at Youturn Health where she expands and manages Youturn Health’s strategic relationships to help change the face of behavioral healthcare.