THREE STRATEGIES TOWARD BETTER MENTAL HEALTH IN THE WORKPLACE
Employers are increasingly placing a high priority on mental health and wellness in HR. An HR report revealed that mental health and well-being were HR leaders' third biggest problems behind the labor shortage and retaining talent. Additionally, burnout was the top consequence of the pandemic. In employee engagement, "blurring of work and personal life" tied for first place with 28% of votes. The top priority of 30% of respondents was employee engagement and experience.
In the new normal, HR leaders must provide support, empathy, and guidance to help employees who need it for their mental health and wellness. The first step is to understand how mental health and wellness work.
Providing a safe and healthy work environment is fundamental and can also improve employee retention, work performance, and productivity. In contrast, a lack of effective structures and support at work can reflect negatively in employee experience and retention. Here, we have dissected how organizations and employers can play an important role in ensuring good mental health practices at workplace.
How can organizations combat mental health stigma?
Stigma affects our mental health at workplaces. Social, self-imposed, or organizational stigma hovers over our minds, which we must always prevent. Stigma generates shame which deteriorates our performance and weakens our strengths. It is not visible to others yet starts pouncing on the person affected. We often begin falling prey which we don't even realize.
In such a context, organizations need mental health audits and, as a preventive measure, can inculcate checkpoints at certain intervals.
A new term 'Quiet quitting,' which means "remaining in one's workplace while not actively involved and going beyond," has evolved from the aftereffects of victimizing someone for their mental health at the workplace.
The second major problem faced by people (who are courageous to share) is where to reach out and to whom. Most people don't want to reach out, as they don't like sharing their mental Problmes with anyone. They don't know the right person. Here's the chance where organizations can play a guiding role and reach out to the suspects as preventive measures.
Companies must always have an open line of communication where simple questions like "How are you feeling?" or "Have you been OK?" can compel the sufferers to spill out and get relieved from the foaming stress within before being converted into any mental health issue. "We don't need a degree in listening to lend an ear." Giving details about where to reach out in case of need at regular intervals to the employees helps develop a better mental health environment.
Stigma also reduces productivity as it impacts an individual's mental health trapped by overthinking. In a survey, 7 out of 10 respondents said they missed their work day and were unable to work due to stress and burnout.
3 Strategies for better mental health support at work
Corporations can establish a collective mindset and belief system.
A belief system can be a game changer in any area of life. A few major areas where companies can build better mental health environments are:
- Keeping an eye on behavioral health conditions,
- Helping employees come out of shame and guilt,
- Making them aware of their tremendous self-worth and self-esteem.
People doubt that colleagues who know their condition would make fun of them and doubt their capabilities. This doubt deteriorates their confidence and self-esteem. Employers can't change anyone's belief system by any command or order. There needs to be a targeted program to create awareness, educate employees, and support them in overcoming their negative self-belief.
A supportive team with well-planned systems and processes can help them develop the right mindset. Providing mental health literacy training involves creating awareness and assuring mental health victims that their conditions are treatable via early intervention, treatment, and recovery support.
Better counseling, guidance, and connecting affected people with the right consultants' help. Assuring that mental health issues are treatable, this helps organizations prevent work-driven anxiety and employee burnout.
In a survey by Dr. Rodriguez Fernandez, a medical director for wellness at the International SOS Foundation, 23% of respondents said, "We received no psychological support from our organization." Dr. Rodriguez advocates having a support program for mental health similar to physical health. 39% of organizations have an executive-level leader entrusted with keeping an eye on the organization's behavioral health portfolio.
Substance use disorder among employees is another major concern that affects employees' mental health. Both are affected due to unaccepted organizational behaviors. As per a survey done by McKinsey and Company, only 27% of employees with no mental illness were willing to work closely with a person in recovery from mental health issues. Only 25% were willing to work closely with a person in recovery from substance use disorder to prevent stigma in the workforce.
Managers/team leaders must be well-educated and trained enough to extend friendly support and consultation when they discover the early signs of discomfort, distress, and behavioral changes in employees to take preventive actions.
Support at the initial stage will prevent the issues from becoming an impossible disorder of crushed self-esteem while preventing the germinating stigma. If not given hope, the employee gradually falls prey to the imposter syndrome ("I am not good enough"), while he may have tremendous potential.
Boosting confidence through thought leadership
Most employees face prejudice in the workplace. Many employees fall prey to stress, depression, and anxiety due to the organizational structure or behavior at the workplace, knowing which HR leaders can work to prevent them.
Encouraging leaders to share their situations of stigma and mental health issues via thought leadership helps younger employees follow the leaders to prevent such problems from their work life.
Sensitizing the vocabulary at work
Using sensitive and acceptable vocabulary so employees don't feel insulted will be a great preventive step. Sticking to non-stigmatic language in organizational policies can reduce the evil effects of fueling the stigma among our workforce.
Promoting a psychologically safe culture is what we can learn from sports. An athlete or a sportsperson always has a sportsman spirit that isn't hampering them psychologically and making them feel low. You never know who can become a culprit. There must be a win-win atmosphere all around. Then only an organization can win and thrive.
Mental health concerns are one of the biggest issues workplaces face. Understanding the aftereffects of the pandemic on the mental health of its employees must be the top priority for organizations. Post-pandemic, as businesses are functioning physically, they can put these preventive steps in place:
- Prioritizing mental health
- Building community support
- Encouraging work-life balance
- Promoting behavioral health literacy
- Increasing support where needed
- Focusing on equity among mental health sufferers
- Mitigating stigma from workplaces
- Creating an inclusive culture free from discrimination
- Setting up an employee assistance program,
- Providing mental health training to managers and supervisors,
- Employing stress-bursting facilities at the workplace, like a gym
- Planning some fun activities or outings
- Infusing creative competition
- Installing breakout rooms to disconnect from work and mingle
Kindness, compassion, and lifting each other up are always appreciated and free of cost.
It's our moral responsibility not to let anyone down with our tormenting comments or acts. It might be fun, but we never know how the other person feels about it. Instead, we must step ourselves into the shoes of the victim and empathize with how the other person might feel if we were in their place.
Bringing better preventive policies at workplaces will force employees to think twice when they are urged to make fun of anyone, as it might be fun for a few seconds to them, but it will cause a lifetime scar on the mental health of the other person.
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