Prioritizing mental health in the workplace is paramount for both individuals and organizations.
In today's fast-paced work environment, words like "burnout" and "stress" have become more than just buzzwords; they represent a growing concern with mental health in the workplace. As the global landscape transforms post-pandemic, there have been new changes and pressures brought to the workplace, with statistics showing a notable increase in employees grappling with stress and burnout.
It’s crucial for corporations to understand that prioritizing mental health in the workplace isn't just a compassionate move — it’s a strategic move for the health of the organization as well. A strong and healthy team is essential to the long-term success, resilience, and growth of an organization in a rapidly changing world.
Dive in to explore the current state of mental health in workplaces, its pivotal role in corporate wellness programs, along with nine practical strategies to create a supportive and thriving work environment.
Workplace mental health: What recent statistics uncover
According to the Lyra 2023 State of Workforce Mental Health Report, the results revealed just how much work remains to be done in order to fully support the mental health of workers, with more employees experiencing heightened stress and burnout than in prior years.
The 2023 report, which includes surveys from 2,500 employees, and 250 employee benefit leaders across the United States, highlighted the following:
- A large majority of employees are facing mental health challenges (86%), but only 33% are receiving mental health care.
- Employees are having a hard time finding the right care, with 1 in 3 employees reporting that their benefits don’t address their mental health needs effectively.
- There’s a growing number of employees who feel that their mental health impacts their work. In fact, a whopping 60% reported that their mental health affected their work in 2023, compared to 58% in 2022, and 48% in 2021.
Mental health is also being talked about in the workplace more than before — the report showed a growing trend over the last three years. A total of 55% of organizations reported that they discuss mental health at work. However, while more organizations are talking about mental health, the Lyra report showed that more work needs to be done when it comes to supporting the mental health of employees in the workplace.
Importance of mental health in the workplace
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide, there are nearly 12 billion workdays lost each year due to depression and anxiety, which comes at a cost of $1 trillion in lost productivity.
The reality is that mental health plays a pivotal role in determining employee productivity, engagement, and overall contribution to the workplace. Just like physical health, mental well-being can significantly influence one’s ability to think critically, collaborate effectively with the team, and manage day-to-day work responsibilities. Individuals struggling with mental health concerns may also experience a decreased ability to handle stress, make decisions, and stay focused at work. The result of this not only affects their individual performance, but it can also have a ripple effect on team dynamics, which can ultimately lead to decreased morale and increased conflict in the workplace.
For HR professionals and managers, understanding the profound link between mental health and job performance is essential. By promoting a culture of mental well-being, offering supportive resources, like corporate wellness programs, and encouraging open dialogue about mental health, organization leaders can not only foster a more supportive environment, but also drive better business outcomes.
What is a mentally healthy workplace?
According to The American Psychological Association, “A healthy workplace fosters employee health and well-being and enhances organizational performance.” There's no one-size-fits-all approach, but the practices that can help support a healthy work environment fall into the following general categories:
- Employee involvement
- Growth and development opportunities
- Health and safety initiatives
- Work-life balance
- Employee recognition
- Effective two-way communication within an organization
With growing mental health concerns among employees, supporting employee mental health is crucial for the well-being of individuals and the overall success of an organization. Here are some key strategies managers and HR professionals can adopt to foster a mentally healthy workplace.
9 Strategies to support employee mental health
- Foster a supportive environment
Encourage open communication about mental health without stigma. Managers should lead by example and cultivate a culture where employees feel safe discussing their well-being. An environment where respect and genuine care for employees' mental and emotional health are prioritized will always be one where employees thrive.
- Offer flexible work arrangements
Consider offering flexible working hours, the option to work from home, or additional breaks when needed. This can help employees manage their health and reduce stress.
- Create work-life balance
Work-life balance is essential for reducing stress and supporting employee mental health. Encourage employees to take regular breaks, use their vacation days, and disconnect after working hours.
- Offer mental health corporate wellness programs
Provide access to employee wellness programs that support mental health, as well as techniques to reduce stress and prevent burnout. It’s also important that employees are aware that these programs are available to them.
- Promote physical health
Physical and mental health are intertwined. Offering wellness programs that also promote physical health can indirectly support mental health. Some other ideas to consider may include creating an ergonomic workplace, encouraging walking meetings, organizing company-wide fitness challenges, stocking the break room with healthy snacks, having office spaces with plenty of natural light, and providing fitness benefits for employees.
- Provide continuous learning opportunities
Consider offering workshops or courses on topics like resilience, coping with stress, or mindfulness. Doing so can help support employee mental well-being both in the workplace and outside of work.
- Schedule regular check-ins
Encourage managers to have regular one-on-one meetings with their team members to discuss workload, provide feedback, and understand any potential stressors. This is key for supporting a proactive working environment and preventing burnout.
- Recognize signs of burnout and act
Be alert to the signs that an employee may be struggling, such as frequent absences, changes in behavior, or reduced performance. Approach with empathy and offer support. If necessary, consider offering training sessions to educate and train managers to recognize the signs of mental health struggles.
- Celebrate achievements
Recognize and celebrate individual and team accomplishments. This can help boost morale and reinforce positive behavior. This may look like recognizing achievements during team meetings, sending out a company-wide email, calling out a big team win, giving out monthly awards for team member accomplishments, offering career growth opportunities, or even having an office party.
Prioritizing mental health for employee & organizational success
The importance of prioritizing mental well-being in the workplace has never been more evident. As burnout and stress levels surge, the effects on employee productivity, team morale, and overall business outcomes can’t be ignored.
It starts with organizations, HR professionals, and managers taking proactive steps toward fostering a mentally healthy environment. By doing so, companies not only support their employees on a human level but also lay the foundation for greater productivity, engagement, and success at work — it’s truly a win-win.
Discover more that HR teams can do to address mental health in the workplace. Download our free employee stress e-book to explore the important role of physical activity in a balanced corporate wellness strategy.
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