For almost 70 years, May has been designated as the month to raise awareness around mental health. It’s the perfect time to reflect on ways each of us can adopt healthy mental-health practices and encourage others to do the same – what better place to start than the workplace?
Mental health continues to be a major obstacle in the United States. One in five adults experience mental illness in a given year. Anxiety and depression cost the global economy $1 trillion annually in lost productivity and yet, less than half of employees feel their employers care about their physical or mental well-being.
Considering the average American spends a third of their lives at work, incorporating mental health in the workplace is essential. In this article, we’ll cover five meaningful ways companies can improve mental health in the workplace so your team can feel energized, motivated, and positive about their work.
Let’s get started.
1. Educate Yourself (and Others) on Mental Health & Wellbeing
There are several resources available for learning about mental health, how to screen for it, prevention of serious complications, and ways to get help. Share them with your team. Start a company-wide dialogue about how management or communication practices can be improved to reduce stress and improve collaboration to improve mental health in the workplace.
Inviting speakers to talk about stress-management tactics, or offering employees the proper tools to gauge and improve their mental wellness can be a huge driver of retention and increased engagement. Discussing mental health and illness at work should no longer be taboo; don’t be afraid to talk about it.
2. Emphasize Diet and Nutrition
Food has a direct impact on how our brains work and develop.
According to the Harvard Business Review, lunchtime eating habits affect our curiosity, motivation, and engagement at work. Eating well isn’t just about counting calories or hitting a target weight. It’s about feeding your brain the right nutrients to optimize its function, and helping your body receive the right energy to get you through the day without feeling excess stress and fatigue.
Employers can stock the kitchen with healthy foods, avoiding snacks and meals that are high in refined sugar and saturated fats. Encourage employees to take their full lunch breaks to walk to their favorite mediterranean restaurant or salad bar, since the alternative, unfortunately, can mean grabbing a bag of chips or protein bar on the way to a meeting.
3. Show Gratitude and Recognition
Being recognized for good work feels amazing. But guess who else is benefitting from the gratitude? The person giving it.
Showing gratitude has a direct effect on our happiness. In fact, some studies have shown that giving praise at work induces higher confidence and drive than being the one to receive it.
Showing recognition to a manager, employee, or colleague is as simple as dropping off a hand-written thank-you note on their desk. Companies can do one better, and offer employees a simple way to reward teammates using a rewards product that makes recognition simple, meaningful, and frequent. Building a culture of recognition reduces stress, builds stronger bonds between teammates, and establishes a generally positive and motivational environment for employees to thrive.
4. Encourage Physical Exercise
This is nothing new. Physical activity is scientifically proven to combat psychological conditions like anxiety and depression. Still, a staggering 80% of adults don’t get their daily recommended amount of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise.
Employers can directly encourage employees to get moving by sponsoring fitness memberships for their team. Take it one step further, and employers can support workouts during work hours to reduce absenteeism and stress and boost productivity. Promoting healthy movement among employees is a sure way to boost positive mental health and even improve the company’s bottom line.
5. Focus on Work-Life Balance
Of course, this is easier said than done. But know that one in three employees report being chronically stressed at work, which means an increased likelihood of mental health problems and diminished quality of work. It’s worth noting that companies that focus on the psychological well-being of employees have turnover rates that are less than a third of the national average.
So consider implementing in-house programs that support work-life balance, such as flex work time, sponsoring outside-of-work activities, parental leave, “no emails past work hours” policies, and more. We live in a digital world where work follows us home; it can be up to the employer to set boundaries around when employees should spend time on themselves, so they can come back to work energized.
Incorporating Mental Health in the Workplace Every Day
Realistically, work-induced stress won’t completely disappear. Instead of trying to rid of it, companies can guide employees in developing healthy daily routines that enable them to reach their physical and mental wellness goals.
In the long run, implementing an effective employee wellness program allows companies to engage employees to produce the best work possible. And remember: leadership sets the tone. Try to curb leadership from sending emails on weekends or after work hours, and encourage the C-suite to take their full lunch breaks. Push leadership to regularly hit the gym; employees will follow suit.