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Cultural Shift – How to Make Mental Health a Priority in the Workplace

Cultural Shift – How to Make Mental Health a Priority in the Workplace
Posted on Friday, November 8, 2019 by Marcy Klipfel
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Mental health issues can manifest in many different ways. 

mental-health-included-in-company-culture

Have you ever felt tired or uninterested in things around you? Have you ever felt anxious or alone? Overwhelmed and stressed for long periods of time?

Although these feelings and symptoms are quite common (nearly 47 million people suffer from mental health issues at some point in their lives), there is still a heavy stigma on mental health issues in the workplace. This stigma is causing major problems with the HR holy trinity: productivity, recruitment and retention.

Poor mental health is costing real dollars.

The Mind Share Partners conducted an expansive study which collected responses from more than 1,500 US adults in the non-profit, for-profit and government sectors with representation across race, gender, LGBTQ+ identity, education and seniority groups.

They found that employees’ poor mental health is causing billion-dollar losses in productivity to the tune of $16.8 billion and over 200 million missed workdays. Seventy-five percent of Gen Z say they have left a job because of mental health reasons and half of Millennials say the same. Across the board, respondents said that mental health affected their performance at work, and 37% said their workplace environment contributed to their feelings positive or negative.

Despite these alarming numbers, it’s still not OK to talk about mental health at work. According to the study, nearly 60% of employees have never mentioned their mental health status at their jobs. Why?

Employees don’t feel supported.

Fewer than half of respondents felt mental health was prioritized at their company and even fewer viewed their company as leaders or advocates on this front. Which is why it’s understandable employees don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health struggles in the workplace.

Furthermore, because of the stigma around mental health in the workplace, many employees won’t seek treatment or help because they don’t self-identify as having a mental health issue.

In the 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study, a staggering 8 in 10 employees, HR professionals, and CEOs all say that companies view someone with a mental health issue as a burden, and 68% of employees believe that reaching out for help with a mental health issue could negatively impact their job security.

In order to attract and retain a productive and diverse workforce, employers must do better. 

Mental health has to be part of the company culture.

It all starts at the top. If leaders, managers and executives make it a point to talk about mental health it will help create a safe environment for employees to talk about their own issues. A whopping 86% of the respondents thought that company culture should support mental health, which was even higher for Millennials and Gen Zers who are the largest demographics in the workforce today.

Here’s are a few other tips to consider:

Invest in education. Training for employees and leaders on how to identify and name mental health issues and navigate the conversations around them is key to the normalization process. All employees should have a baseline knowledge of the tools available to them as well as the best way to address their particular issues. Empathy needs to take front and center in these conversations. 

Get creative with benefits. By providing different kinds of support to employees, you ensure you reach them at the right place and the right time. Like most benefits, one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to mental health. Employees’ needs vary based on their own set of circumstances so checking only one box may not be enough to fix the issue or stigma in your workplace. For example, providing a booklet outlining the symptoms of depression and anxiety with references to the tools you offer to help. Or providing e-therapy benefits or access to a mental health hotline. Include a breakdown of all your mental health offerings during on-boarding so all employees are aware of what’s available to them. Openly talking about mental health benefits the first day on the job helps break down the stigma.

Listen. In the 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study, 90% of employees say that employers should do more for overall well-being. Overwhelming majorities of HR professionals (85%) and CEOs (94%) agree with that statement. Yet, we see a disconnect between leadership and employees: 92% of CEOs say their company is emphasizing mental health, yet only 70% of employees agree. It’s imperative that leadership listen to their employees’ needs instead of assuming everything is OK. Send out surveys and make sure you communicate year-round about the mental health benefits you offer.

To find out more about mental health in the workplace download our white paper below.

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