How Companies Can Prioritize Employee Mental Health

US workers are struggling. The turbulent economy, juggling remote and hybrid working, social stressors, and rising post-pandemic anxiety have taken their toll - and the effects are being felt in the workplace.

Over half of all US employees report feeling mentally unwell, putting the onus on employers to strengthen their internal infrastructure to avoid employee burnout and provide staff with the mental health support they need.

Why Mental Health Support Matters

If your workers are in the middle of a mental health crisis, they're far more likely to be inattentive, unfocused, and disconnected. Studies show that problem-solving, creativity, and innovation take a hit when we're not feeling our best. Coaching firm BetterUp surveyed over 1,000 workers and found that those who said they weren't struggling with their mental health spent 23% less effort completing a creative task than those who were.

It's easy to see why. When we're anxious or overwhelmed, the pressure of problem-solving to deadline only makes things worse. In response, many employees simply stay home. Workers who report poor mental health have four times more unplanned absences than their healthier colleagues, according to a recent Gallup poll which estimates that this costs the US economy $47.6 billion annually in lost productivity.

Building a Workplace Culture with Mental Health in Mind

Making mental health a priority in your workplace doesn’t just protect your current employees and improve productivity. It also makes your company a more attractive place to work for potential hires. 81% of workers say mental health support is an important factor when looking for work. 

But creating a positive culture doesn’t just happen. Employers have to deliberately cultivate an atmosphere of respect, trust, and openness while incorporating structured resources available to everyone. Here are four ways you can build better employee mental health:

1. Make Mental Health a Daily Priority

Creating a supportive environment in the office doesn't have to mean taking time out for company retreats. Small steps can make a big difference.

It could be as simple as encouraging employees to take breaks, exercise, go for a stroll, or have an informal coffee meeting. You may want to introduce casual group activities like trivia night or mentoring sessions. Anything that fosters an inclusive dynamic among your team will help members open up and share their concerns.

2. Support Flexible Work Arrangements

Giving your employees the freedom to work fully remotely or choose a hybrid work model allows them to opt for the environment in which they’re most comfortable. They’re less likely to feel overwhelmed if they have more control over their own schedule.

It’s also important to offer your staff time away from the office where possible. These could mean providing mental health days, additional paid sick days, parental leave, or a longer sabbatical to recharge their batteries.

3. Offer Wellness Perks

Gym passes, free workout and meditation apps, access to digital health services, ergonomic office furniture - these wellness perks are a powerful signal to your employees that you take their mental health seriously.

4. Stay Alert to Red Flags

Mental health issues are often referred to as a 'hidden' health hazard. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding these kinds of conditions can make sufferers feel isolated, alone, and ashamed.

Employees may not be willing or able to articulate what's wrong, but employers can often pick up on non-verbal cues that something's amiss. Be on the lookout for red flags such as changes in behavior, sudden dips in performance, lateness, absenteeism, and anything that seems uncharacteristic for that team member.

Employee productivity tracker Prodoscore helps managers spot these warning signs early, giving them visibility into how their team is working so they can immediately see any unusual behaviors that require further investigation. Using Prodoscore, team leaders can be proactive about protecting their employees’ mental health and getting them help when needed.

Supporting Your Employees During a Crisis

If you’re spotting those tell-tale red flags, that might be a sign that something serious is amiss. Catching these warning signs early allows you to step in and provide more structured support before things fester.

More formal support systems could involve mental health counseling programs, urging employees to take advantage of the mental health services included in their company health plan, or setting up regular on-the-job counseling for ongoing support.

You may also want to consider peer support therapy. This type of counseling – provided by a therapist with lived-in experience – has proven benefits in the workplace. By speaking with someone who's been through it, struggling staff are able to open up to an empathetic ear and feel heard, without being judged.

Mental health has always been a consideration for employers, but it's now more important than ever to ensure you have the right support in place. Prioritizing wellness at work will pay dividends both now and over the long term as businesses negotiate talent shortages and economic upheaval. 

Employee productivity tracker Prodoscore can help businesses identify which employees are struggling and which are showing signs of stress and anxiety. For these and other business insights that can help keep your team on track, get in touch with us today.

How will visibility impact your business?