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Mental Health – A Key Part of Employee Wellness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and companies are wise to promote and support employees’ mental health in the workplace. This is especially important after the many stressors brought on by the Pandemic, which may have long-term implications. A mental health consulting group on LinkedIn says that “Only 41 percent of people say their employer is supportive of their mental health.” Hopefully your company champions and promotes self-care practices, and if not, you might advocate for that. It can be difficult for HR staff to provide support if they don’t feel supported themselves.

Here are a few ways in which the HR department can support employee mental health:
  • Imparting policies and practices that promote work-life balance. Policies and procedures that promote a healthy work-life balance are of great value to employees, and in many cases improve and increase overall productivity. This can include flexible work schedules, remote work options, and time off policies that prioritize mental health. Employees should be granted time to unplug. Writer Anne Lamott quips, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
  • Providing mental health resources and training. Providing resources and training about mental health can only be a benefit to employees in understanding and managing their mental health. Access to mental health professionals, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and training programs on stress management and coping strategies benefit employees and empower them to be proactive regarding their health. Bringing in speakers on mental health, meditation or work-life balance as topics for stress management in lunch and learn sessions could have rippling effects among staff.
  • Creating a supportive workplace culture. HR, in cooperation with managers, can and should create a supportive workplace culture that values open communication, empathy, and collaboration. This can include initiatives like employee recognition programs, employee professional development, wellness programs, and team-building activities. The effects of this culture on a team, as well as between employees can empower employees to feel more engaged, connected to and valued by their employer.
Also, when considering employee mental health, consider employees who might work in non-traditional gender roles, and how that might impact them. This could include women in construction, men in nursing or childcare, etc. They may face additional, unique or recurring pressures based on gender norms as a direct result of their career, especially without active employer support and intervention.
  • Reducing stigma. By openly discussing mental health, developing awareness campaigns and providing educational and training opportunities, employers can erase the stigma surrounding mental health. Employees will be better situated to recognize and address mental health issues in themselves and be proactive and comfortable about resolving them.

Employees often fear speaking out or asking for support for mental health out of fear for their job. Again, HR’s work with employees to offer accommodations and support to help them manage their mental health can be tremendously valuable. Flexible work arrangements, time off for medical appointments, and accommodations for employees with mental health conditions all help normalize the issue and show support for employees, creating a healthier and more productive workforce.

For additional inspiration, SHRM recently published an article called, “What Ted Lasso Can Teach Us About Mental Health in the Workplace.” If your company could use some additional help navigating these issues, Wisconsin’s 16 Technical Colleges offer consulting on compliance and much more.

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