As we move further into 2022, the question of mental health in the workplace is one that is becoming a central concern of many business owners. Prompted in part by the pandemic, the escalating mental health crisis is pressing because it is one of the more difficult workplace issues to address.
How do you properly support employees that disclose they have mental health issues? What resources can you offer those employees experiencing burnout, anxiety or depression, among other mental health-related conditions? How do we prepare managers to ensure there isn't discrimination against employees who may find themselves dealing with transitory or chronic mental health issues?
In their 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey, the American Psychological Association found three-in-five people surveyed reported that work-related stress caused a “lack of interest, motivation or energy”; while 44% reported that stress was also leading to physical fatigue.
Challenges associated with mental health don’t just concern those individuals currently employed by your business. If a job candidate reveals a mental health-related condition during an interview, the information provided should not prevent you from considering this candidate.
First off, you want to be very clear about the responsibilities associated with the position, providing a written job description is best and thereby allows the candidate to assess whether they feel they can manage the job in light of any health condition or disability they may be experiencing.
4 Ways To Support an Employee Experiencing Mental Health Issues
The best way to help employees with stress, depression, anxiety or other types of mental health conditions is to first be proactive; that is to say, by anticipating that there very well could be (and likely are) individuals in need of support in this capacity, it is a good idea to be prepared in terms of offering people access to needed resources, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if one is available.
What else might you do to support those employees who are experiencing a mental health condition?
Be Open and Honest in Your Communication
If an employee makes you aware that they are experiencing a mental health-related issue, open the lines of communication in a sensitive, tactful and empathetic way. Don’t push, but make sure they understand that you are there to support them in their role. We never want to assume that an employee has a mental health-related issue. Instead of saying “you seem depressed,” instead say, “you’re not your usual self.” If an employee discloses an issue or asks for an accommodation let the employee know that you are willing to work with them to maintain their health and be successful in the job. If your organization is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (applies to all employers with 15 or more employees), then you must work with the employee and consider reasonable accommodations, as long as the accommodations do not cause undue hardship. Such accommodations might mean providing extra breaks, a quiet workspace, or the ability to work a flexible schedule.
Many people don’t recognize the signs of mental distress. And many employees will often try and hide these signs by simply pretending that everything is “okay.” This can inevitably lead to bigger and more serious issues down the road. Making managers and leaders aware of critical signs linked to potential mental health issues is the first step. Instructing them how to handle emergent issues of this nature, how to listen and not judge, and then giving them the tools they need to offer the right kind of support will make a difference.
Ensure that Your Company Culture Emphasizes Well-Being
Especially in light of the pandemic and the climate it created an emphasis on well-being and self-care has become the norm within the workplace. During the early days of COVID, business owners often emerged as “chief empathy officers.” The notion of business as usual was rather dramatically redefined in some contexts as the health and well-being of a business’s people became central to the success of the company. What does your company culture prioritize? Does your team know that you value their overall health? Your company culture should ideally be one in which employees feel that their mental health is in fact prioritized.
Work-life balance isn’t just a trendy term; it’s proven to be necessary for the mental well-being of individuals. During the pandemic, we saw more flexible schedules and working options come into play by virtue of necessity. What this demonstrated, however, was that in some instances, this type of flexibility led to happier employees and thus enhanced productivity. Could this be an option for your business?
The specialists at Axcet HR Solutions are here to help! Mental health issues in the workplace need to be taken seriously. Ideally, you want to ensure that you support your employees, that you remain compliant with regulations, make the necessary accommodations, and that you can provide relevant resources to those who need them. Our HR experts can help you navigate through these types of situations. Call or schedule a consultation today!