How Can Managers Support Employees' Mental Health in the Workplace
October is over, and so is World Mental Health Day. In case you missed it, it's celebrated worldwide on 10th October every year. But don't worry. It's mental health and not confined to a single day or a specific month. You should always talk about it as much as possible.
But what about mental health in the workplace? When you ask someone about their health, isn't it true that you're thinking just about their physical health? Is being physically healthy enough to classify yourself as healthy?
WHO says that globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression. Out of these, many suffer from symptoms of anxiety. Another research shows that 1 in every 6.8 employees suffer from mental health problems (14.7%). Some more disorders people suffer from are ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic disorder.
To regulate a culture of acceptance, we must regulate conversations about mental health in the workplace.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Mental health in the workplace is an important aspect of your employees' overall well-being. Today, when it comes to creating a corporate wellness program productivity, it is important to cover your employees' mental and physical health.
Wellness now is more holistic, and prioritizing mental health at work is a key factor. Since employees spend most of their time at work, workplace stress can affect their personal life if not dealt with.
However, mental health issues at work are often overlooked and not addressed when discussing workplace mental health. As a result of the stigma associated with mental health conditions, many people choose to suffer rather than discuss them. And this stigma is much more prevalent in the workplace.
So many of these issues don’t even come to the surface. The stigma associated with having a psychiatric disorder is so high that people choose to suffer rather than talk about it. And this stigma is much more prevalent in the workplace.
Employees are much more reluctant to share because they are afraid of jeopardizing their career and losing their jobs. Another major reason for keeping it hushed is the fear of discrimination and bullying by coworkers.
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To create healthy workplaces, you, as a manager, must encourage people to come forward and share their experiences. When employees feel that sharing about mental illnesses won't damage their careers, they will feel comfortable sharing their challenges with you.
Moreover, once they get support from their leaders, they might encourage their peers to come forward with their challenges and seek help.
Once you can successfully regulate and normalize talking about mental health in the workplace, employees will voluntarily start coming forward with their problems and help create a healthy work environment.
According to the Mind the Workplace report 2021, mental health in America is already declining. It has been found that most employees are already experiencing burnout and aren't receiving the support they need
How Can You Recognize The Problem
Ruth Hutchinson, senior mental health lead at Neyber, says,
"11% of people with mental health problems are losing their jobs, and employers sometimes are not aware that there's a problem until someone is in the middle of a disciplinary."
Employees suffering from mental illnesses often have problems focusing. The lack of focus affects their performance and ultimately reduces their productivity. But is this the right thing to do? Instead of firing them, supporting them is much more necessary. Moreover, when they know you stand with them in their darkest moments, they'll become loyal to you.
Therefore, you can't wait till the panic attack. But how do you recognize the symptoms early on?
Employees who are struggling with mental health issues at work tend to behave differently. By observing and paying attention to it, you can easily identify those who might need help. Here are a few behavioral changes that may result from unresolved mental health issues:
While interacting with peers or going about their daily duties, employees might have fluctuations in mood and behavior. Some symptoms of anxiety and depression are anger or increased irritability.
Erratic behavior is another sign to look out for. It may exhibit mood swings between being moody and feeling pompous.
Maybe it could be a sign that your employees need help if their performance reviews begin to deteriorate. A lack of work-life balance or excessive stress could be the cause.
Lack of engagement or participation in teamwork or activities can be another sign of struggling with mental health issues like stress, anxiety, or even depression.
The cause of frequent conflicts with colleagues or managers often leads to heated arguments can be because of unaddressed mental health issues.
Inability to remember things, often resulting in confusion and frustration.
Other symptoms to look out for are lack of confidence, indecisiveness, and increased employee increased employee absenteeism. A combined deterioration of mental health in the workplace can affect the business' bottom line.
They could look tired and worn out. Depression, for example, can indirectly cause weight loss and fatigue. They might appear anxious and withdrawn from things they enjoyed previously.
Their eating habits might change too. It could increase or decrease as stress can result in substance abuse like heavy drinking or smoking.
It could later lead to a lack of sleep, a common problem for those facing these challenges. Sleep deprivation can also affect your productivity and efficiency at work.
How You Can Help Support Mental Health In The Workplace?
It might not be feasible for your company to hire a full-time clinical psychologist. But that doesn't mean you can't help. Managers themselves can do a lot to help employees face challenges and normalize talking about mental health in the workplace.
According to a recent UK survey, almost 30% of employees shy away from discussing workplace stress with management. But it is the organization's responsibility to remove this barrier so employees can feel more comfortable speaking about their mental health issues.
Mental health awareness alone is not enough to support your employees' mental health at work. It needs to be coupled with actions and strategies to provide support about such sensitive issues.
To create a more welcoming workplace, you must first become familiar with the different types of mental health conditions and their effective treatments. In addition to taking mental health training, you can encourage your employees to participate in health care plans that include mental health coverage.
Many online courses provide employers with the resources and information on the same. Learning will help you understand the problems. It will also enable you to recognize the symptoms and the support you can provide them.
In many countries, the stigma associated with mental health is very high. Having a psychiatric disorder is frowned upon and sometimes even laughed at. But you can change this by talking about it. You can conduct mental health awareness programs.
You can give presentations, and share your personal experiences (if any). Invite employees from other departments to share their experiences. They can help employees understand how to deal with it in the workplace.
Choose the Place
You can't just expect employees to come into your office and pour their hearts out to you. You need to figure out where they will feel the most comfortable and can be their selves. A place outside work where they won't feel the hierarchical difference between you
People dealing with mental health challenges don't feel comfortable talking about it. Firstly, the trauma associated with the challenge is high. Also, the age-old "what will people think?" makes people hesitant to share about their mental health.
You can conduct regular discussions on the topic to encourage people to talk about it. Once you make it a routine, it will get normalized, and more people might feel comfortable talking about it.
Earn Their Trust
Talking about such sensitive issues takes a lot of courage. If your employee is confiding in you, it means they trust you. It is also information that they probably don't want the entire office to know about. To ensure confidentiality, you can create strict laws about sharing information. You can also discuss with them how much they would like to be shared with their peers.
Listen and then Respond
Every individual's experience of a mental health problem is different. How they choose to approach that problem will be different for every employee. So, the way you approach each employee has to be also different. Focus on the person rather than the problem.
Provide your support in a way that suits the individual. It shouldn't be based on what you think is a standard solution to the problem. Listen to what they are saying, how it affects them, and respond accordingly.
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Encourage Taking Help
If you realize that your help isn't enough, encourage them to seek professional help. Allow them to take time off if that's what's necessary. Because an employee dealing with such challenges will not be able to perform his best. His inability to perform will help neither him nor the company.
Some more ways are flexible work hours and a balanced workload. Initiating stress-busting activities and helping them maintain a good work-life balance will be effective too. Develop wellness programs to help employees battle their mental illnesses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important for managers to support mental health at work?
Managers need to support mental health at work because employees who experience mental health issues might struggle with productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. Managers can create a more productive and positive work environment by supporting employees' mental health.
How can managers identify employees who are struggling with mental health issues?
To identify employees with mental health issues, managers should monitor changes in behavior or performance, monitor employee stress levels, and check in regularly with employees.
What are the common misconceptions about mental health in the workplace?
Some common misconceptions about mental health in the workplace include that it is a sign of weakness, doesn't affect your productivity, and that you should just tough it out if it bothers you.
You can't wait till the saturation point. Because of the stigma attached to mental health, your employees might not feel comfortable talking to you about it. Look around right now. You can understand better if someone doesn't perform well or looks ill. Be compassionate and ask them if they're doing well.
A simple "How Are You" might impact them more than you know.
To support mental health in the workplace, follow this simple mantra-
Talk, Listen, and Support.
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