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Three proactive measures employers can take to prioritize employee mental health

by Ana Lopez
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Stephen Sokoler, founder and CEO of trip.

As the pandemic has brought about one of the largest workplace transformations ever, including remote working, increased employee expectations and a passionate and polarizing social and political climate, it is essential to understand the changing needs of today’s workforce. In a climate of quiet shutdown, burnout and attrition, the knee-jerk response is to hone the staff’s side for disaster.

But even with benefits like employee assistance programs (EAPs), therapy, and medical plans, HR departments can still struggle to find ways to appease their troubled employees and retain the quality staff they have.

It turns out that mental health issues can cause a great deal of worry. Spending on illness-related medical services increased the most for mental health services of all services evaluated between 2016 and 2019, according to a ValuePenguin analysis. In addition, a MindShare Partners survey (through CNBC) reported that half of all millennials had left their jobs (voluntarily or involuntarily), in part for mental health reasons. As the founder and CEO of a mental health support company, I think it might be time for a new plan.

With a proactive approach to promoting mental health, employers could reinvigorate much of the workforce like never before. Instead of managers fighting to recapture the passion of their once-successful employees, here are three ideas for staying proactive about your workforce’s mental health.

Meet employees where they are.

It goes without saying that the better managers know their employees, the better they can meet their needs. While that may seem easier said than done, there are techniques that make it more possible than previous reactive care plans allowed. While traditional EAPs can be helpful, they are designed more for intermittent use and often don’t address problematic situations until they arise. If employers want to give their staff tools that honor where they stand in their professional and personal lives, they may need a different approach.

This is where a proactive mental health approach comes in that encourages employees to practice self-care. When managers are taught easy-to-apply techniques that strengthen their resilience and sharpen their focus, they are likely to be more productive and become better leaders. . Research (via businessroundups.org) has shown multiple times that happy, healthy people make better, more effective employees. So how do companies get to know their employees and actually meet them where they are?

To start, ask them how they are doing. By developing simple and consistent questionnaires, organizations can build a baseline assessment of where their team is on a spectrum of mental well-being, then track progress over time.

Then they need to provide tools that employees can easily access wherever they are. Don’t let them look for it. Don’t stick them on an intranet that no one goes to and that is 20 clicks away. Put them where they are. That could be on the assembly line, in their calendars and emails, during video calls, or at their homes.

Create a culture that supports mental health.

There is an ever-present stigma surrounding mental health, and employees’ personal struggles can contribute to workplace challenges such as absenteeism and even layoffs if left unaddressed.

When conversations about mental health emerge in the workplace, the potential for people to get the support they need and ultimately improve their lives increases. Steps such as training managers to identify when an employee is struggling, communicating effectively about mental health issues, and enlisting specialists who can train entire teams can pay off to stay ahead of mental health issues for employees. It is also critical to ensure that workplace policies enable good mental health. Merely offering benefits is not enough – the culture must support mental health. As the great management guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Pay special attention to the hard-to-reach ones.

One of the trickiest things about staying proactive with mental health is connecting with employees who may be harder to reach. What makes employees difficult to reach? As I wrote earlier, they may be working from home or on a production line and are outside of the traditional office environment. If they are part of certain communities, they may not feel that the current benefits and culture were built for them or by people like them. By adapting outreach to specifically communicate with select groups of employees and prioritizing accessibility, companies can ensure that historically overlooked employees feel seen and cared for. So bring these communities together and make it easier for them to take care of themselves and each other. Incorporate mental health awareness and peer support into internal training and professional development efforts. And create progress metrics and incentives for self-care and engagement with all the tools your company offers.

While meeting the needs of today’s workforce requires constant attention, I believe it is possible to turn the tide for employees at risk of burnout and withdrawal. It is entirely possible to proactively address mental health in the workplace. And when employees feel supported and cared for, their overall well-being is likely to improve, which could lead to more productive, effective and happy employees and, in turn, more impactful, more effective businesses.

businessroundups.org Business Council is the premier growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?

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