How Organizations Can Support Their Employees’ Mental Health
As the pandemic persists, maintaining employee wellbeing remains a priority for businesses. Canadians are struggling, and as an organization, you may be struggling with how to support your employees.
Understanding the differences between mental health and mental illness is the first step toward ensuring your organization can meet your employees’ emotional needs:
- Mental health is a state of being that refers to how one can cope with the demands and stress of day-to-day living. Good mental health means you can cope with stress and achieve personal goals. Struggling with mental health may look like a negative attitude, anxiety, excessive fear, and temporary physical ailments like vomiting or aches.
- Mental illness includes a broad range of psychological or behavioural symptoms that reduce an individual’s capacity to cope with daily life. Resulting symptoms may include uncontrolled emotions, unaccustomed behaviour, or an inability to effectively communicate.
Now that you have a better understanding of the two terms, I’ve compiled key considerations to keep in mind as you create or modify your workplace mental health strategy.
Where To Start
Start by reviewing your organization’s existing policies and procedures. Does your organization have a mental health strategy? If not, consider these steps when creating a protocol:
- Check in with employees. Consider how the pandemic has affected your work environment and potentially your employees’ wellbeing. Evaluate existing data around vacation requests, leave of absences, and more. To make sure your programs are relevant and valuable, use survey tools to get feedback from employees.
- Identify opportunities and pain points. Cultural behaviours at your organization, like limited social opportunities or creative time, too many meetings – may impact employee wellbeing. Analyze cultural practices to identify existing procedures that need updating.
- Create an action plan. Articulate what needs to be addressed, enhanced, or changed within your organization’s mental health procedure (or lack of one). Create a strategy that includes a focus on preventing harm, promoting positive outcomes, and managing illnesses.
- Update existing resources. Go beyond voicing your support for mental health. Create awareness and ensure your employees are aware of company offerings by demonstrating available resources and any changes to the benefit plan. Additional resources may include facilitating meetings with occupational health professionals for returning colleagues, local support groups, or planned mental health check-ins.
Summary: Investing in your organization’s talent and supporting their mental health will be your organization’s greatest return on investment (ROI). By working to create a robust mental health strategy that explores preventing harm, promoting positive outcomes, and supporting returning colleagues, you will build trust and loyalty within your organization.
Train Leadership To Identify Symptoms
Your leadership team is your frontline contact to your employees’ mental health. To effectively provide support for your organization, your leadership team must be equipped to identify mental health and wellness symptoms. The following are a few strategies I implemented at Humi to manage mental health and tips to know when to escalate situations:
- Recognize the signs. Train management to identify signs of stress and burnout. This includes recognizing absenteeism, presenteeism, missed deadlines, changes in appearance, and escalated conflict – to name a few. It is the responsibility of management to monitor the signs and identify those in need of support.
- Set time to connect. Recognize good work, and if there’s a change in performance or behaviour, ask what’s causing the change and listen. If needed, prepare a plan to get the employee back on track.
- Remind employees of their health benefits. If you have an employee and family assistance program (EFAP), encourage using these resources as needed.
- Track and impact. Keep a detailed record of every incident, including the date, issue, and most importantly, the impact the behaviours had – on either the team or the business.
- Understand your organization’s responsibility. It is management’s responsibility to intervene when sources of stress are work related. When it’s personal, offer the resources available, listen, and have empathy.
Summary: Investing in training your organization’s leaders to spot signs that employees may require mental health support will be an invaluable asset to care for your employees. Understand your organization’s responsibilities when approaching mental health support; it can vary when stressors are professional or personal.
Tailor Your Benefit Plan To Fit The Changing Work Environment
Now that many organizations have shifted to a remote-only work environment, make sure your benefit plan is still accessible. With offices closed and only emergency services available (varies per province and municipality), explore innovative opportunities that allow your employees to access the help they need. Companies like Inkblot match individuals with certified therapists and coaches for virtual sessions. Other companies like PocketPills offer medical consultations via phone and can refill and prescribe medication. Do your research on creditable, accessible benefit options in this remote environment.
Summary: Explore health providers that are easily accessible during the pandemic to ensure your employees can still make the most of their benefit plan.
February marks the eleventh consecutive month Canadians (and the world) have worked in a remote environment, and the mental health of Canadians is at a record low. Ensure your organization is doing what it can to create a stable, remote environment that effectively supports your employees.
Andrea Bartlett, is the HR Director at Humi. Humi is the leading all-in-one HR, Payroll, and Benefits platform, supporting thousands of businesses across Canada. Have more questions? Andrea would love to hear from you. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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