The workplace shouldn't be the last place we talk about mental health, it should be one of the first.
According to Gettysberg College, we spend over a third of our lives at work. Approximately 90,000 hours in our lifetimes. It's a little bit insane (pun intended) that mental health still has such a strong stigma in the workplace. Many employees fear retribution, differential treatment, ostracizing, fracturing relationships.
With one in five people suffering from a mental illness, employers cannot risk losing talented and dedicated employees by not supporting mental health in the workplace. So, where do you start?
It's important for leaders to take a stance and break the stigma and lead by example. Creating a safe and accepting workplace that employees feel comfortable sharing their mental health struggles starts with open and honest communication. Here are a few tips:
You take the first step. It's hard for employees to open up to their leaders about mental health. Research has shown that 60% of US employees have experienced some symptoms of a mental health condition in the past year. The same percentage has never mentioned their struggles at work. This is why it's important for leaders to share their stories and create an "open door" policy when it comes to mental health and encourage all leaders to feel free to share their stories too through video, social media, lunch and learns or even a company newsletter.
Invest in benefits. EAP programs, telemedicine and mental health hotlines are all empathetic benefits to offer employees to support their mental health. However, don't discount financial wellbeing benefits. In fact, PwC’s Special Report: Financial stress and the bottom line shows that two 2020 resolution themes—finances and mental well-being—are directly correlated. When asked what causes them the most stress in general, the most popular answer was “financial or money matters/challenges” (46% of respondents), which significantly outpaced the next answer, “my job” (17%). For those who are financially stressed, money worries cause 47% of them to miss work occasionally or see their work productivity impacted.
Partner with non-profits. There are many non-profits dedicated to improving the lives of those that struggle with mental health. Partnering with them to lead learning events and providing communication about their services to your employees is a great way to connect the dots and provide resources to those that need it. Read more about potential non-profit partners in our Foundation blog.
Provide resources to those without mental health issues. Part of the breaking the stigma is helping people who don't have mental health issues understand how to support those that do. Some may feel uncomfortable discussing mental health at work because they simply don't have the language. Leading a workshop or providing a pamphlet of information or link resources online could help bridge the gap and create a more inclusive workplace. Here is a great tip sheet from National Alliance on Mental Health.
Now, to put my money where my mouth is. Check out a recent video interview I did with fellow Solver Dave P. In a previous video, he talked about his struggle with mental health issues. Today, I share mine.
And for a full mental health kit to use at your organization, check out the resources page below.