How to promote mental health in the workplace?

Mental health is a vital aspect of well-being that affects both individuals and organizations. In my last article I talked about workplace bullying and how it affects employees’ mental health (you can read it from here). But now I think it is agood time to take a wider look at promoting mental health in the workplace.

What is “mental health”?

  • Mental health is a state of well-being, which involves realizing one’s own abilities.
  • It includes the ability to cope with normal life stresses.
  • Mental health enables individuals to work productively and fruitfully.
  • It allows individuals to contribute to their community.
  • Mental health is distinct from mental health problems.
  • We all have mental health, and it is an important topic for every person.

However, mental health problems are common and can have serious consequences for workers and employers. Common mental health issues in the workplace include anxiety, stress, and depression, which can affect personalproductivity, career development, team performance, and organizational culture.

When we look at what can be done to promote mental health in the workplace, we can broadly divide actions into categories:

  • proactive methods to prevent problems
  • reactive methods to respond to problems

In this article, I will discuss some of the proactive and reactive methods that employers can use to cultivate a mentally healthy workplace.

Proactive methods aim to prevent problems and promote positive mental health. 
These methods include:

  • Assessing and addressing psychosocial risks in the work environment, such as excessive workload, low job control, poor physical conditions, violence, harassment, discrimination, unclear roles, job insecurity, and conflicting demands. Employers can use tools such as surveys, audits, interviews and focus groups to identify thesources of stress and dissatisfaction among employees and implement measures to eliminate or minimize them.
  • Providing training and education on mental health awareness, prevention, and management for both managers and employees. This can help to increase knowledge, skills, and confidence in dealing with mental healthissues, reduce stigma and discrimination, and encourage help-seeking and help-giving behaviors. This way you can keep mental health in focus.
  • Promoting a positive organizational culture that values diversity, inclusion, respect, trust, collaboration, and communication.
  • Offering flexible work arrangements that allow employees to balance their work and personal life. This can help to reduce stress, increase autonomy, satisfaction, and productivity, and accommodate the needs and preferences of different employees. Keep in mind that what worked for your employee two years ago might not be working today, sokeep in touch with your people and ask if they require a change.
  • Providing resources and opportunities for employees to enhance their mental health and well-being, such as counseling, coaching, mentoring, peer support, wellness programs, health benefits, employee assistance programs, and access to information and services. The knowledge that employees can get help, when in need, istherapeutic.

Reactive methods aim to support and accommodate employees who are experiencing mental health problems.
These methods include:

  • Establishing and communicating a clear strategy and procedure for managing mental health issues in the workplace, such as reporting, disclosure, confidentiality, referral, return to work and reasonable adjustments. 
    This can help to ensure consistency, fairness, transparency, and accountability in dealing with mental health issues,and protect the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees.
  • Training and empowering managers and supervisors to identify, support, and manage employees withmental health problems.
    This can help to create a supportive and trusting relationship, facilitate early intervention and prevention, provide appropriate guidance and feedback, and coordinate the provision of resources and services.
  • Engaging and consulting with employees with mental health problems and their unions, occupationalhealth professionals, health care providers and family members. Be part of the network surrounding the employee. You don’t have to do much, just be there, if needed.
  • Providing possibilities for changes in work tasks, schedule, environment, equipment, expectations andgoals for employees with mental health problems.
    This can help to reduce the barriers and challenges that the employee may face and enable them to perform their work effectively and safely.
  • Providing counseling, coaching, and mentoring for employees to support their mental health and well-being.
    This can help to prevent or address mental health problems, improve coping skills and resilience, and promote self-care and recovery.

Yes, you read it before, that it is a proactive method… Well, it kind of goes into both categories. Knowing that thispossibility is preventive itself and getting help before things go sideways definitely prevents bigger problems. But it is extra important, when the problem is already there: getting psychological help isn´t always possible for everybody (it is quite expensive, there is a lot of stigma, people don’t have the time after work etc.), but it is important to start and promote recovery.

And of course

  • Review and evaluate the actions taken to support and accommodate employees with mental health problems, such as feedback and outcomes of the performance, satisfaction, well-being, and recovery. This can help to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the actions and make necessary adjustments and improvements.

To keep track of what you are doing, I highly recommend putting together a mental health action plan, where you can identify all the possible actions you want to take to promote mental health. Mental health action plan outlines the goals, strategies, actions and indicators for improving mental health in an organization and will support you in your way to be there for your staff. If you need help to organize an assessment, put together a mental health action plan or partner to support your employees, hit us up!

Anna Helena Ursula Malkovskaja