Employers are paying more attention than ever to employee mental health and wellness. For example, 52% of employers say their workplace facilitates an open and inclusive environment that encourages open dialogue about mental health, a 10% increase from 2020. On the other hand, levels of stress, anxiety and depression are on the rise, with a 7% increase in U.S. workers who claim to struggle with depression or anxiety most days or a few days a week.
Employees suffering with their mental health and well-being continue to need support; and long-term success requires continuous effort. As a result, companies should supplement new tools and technology with a focus to drive organizational growth and promote training. This can encourage a workplace environment that reduces the stigma still associated with mental illness and encourage the adoption of appropriate interventions that influence healthier habits.
But, driving cultural change takes time, and the path isn’t always straightforward. Here are three ways to nurture your company’s culture around mental health and wellness.
1. Eliminate the Stigma
There is often still a stigma associated with mental health issues, especially in the workplace. According to a study by Business in the Community (BITC), despite the increase in employers welcoming open dialogue about mental health, only 51% of employees feel comfortable talking to their managers about their mental health issues in the workplace. In addition, only 13% feel able to disclose their own mental health issues to their employer. One of the most important goals a training program should strive toward eliminating the stigma within their organization’s culture.
According to a 2012 meta-analysis study, there are two effective strategies to eradicating the stigma behind mental health issues in an organization:
- Educate staff about mental health and well-being.
- Encourage the team to make contact with other team members who may be suffering from a mental health issue.
This is why training should include opportunities to hear perspectives from those who experience mental health issues. The aim should be to build an encouraging, open and supportive culture — one in which people feel comfortable talking about their mental health and well-being and seek help when necessary.
2. Make It Easy for Employees to Use Training Tools
A tool is no good if it cannot be used. Employees should be able to conveniently access evidence-based interventions and trainings when made available.
Here are ways to make these practices and programs readily accessible to employees:
- Raise awareness. In particular, digital tools have what one study by JMIR Publication calls “a tremendous and still largely untapped potential to augment and extend care.”
- Role model. Encourage employees in leadership positions to role model behaviors and habits that encourage mental health and wellbeing. Examples are prioritizing self-care and work-life balance, as well as using digital tools and seeking professional help when needed.
- Make access easy. This point is incredibly important because of the substantial disparities in access to mental health treatment across race, class and gender. Lowering the barriers to access makes the tools more equitable, therefore more effective. In addition, training programs should be designed in a way that suits how employees consume information: Device agnostic, divided into bite-sized parts, and contextualized to your workplace.
3. Influence Healthier Habits for the Long Term
Edifying a company culture that supports a fit mental health and well-being can take time. Your training program ought to consider how those habits can be cultivated.
Many mental health training courses focus on providing awareness to different conditions, like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Though this is a good start, the focus on training should encapsulate the entire mental health spectrum to ensure that employees gain a better understanding of mental wellness as a whole. Training should also cover preventative and long-term strategies to help both acute and chronic mental health issues, as well as proactively nurture a mentally healthy workplace.
Learning how to support co-workers struggling with mental health issues is also important to achieving long-term impacts. Training should include information about the signs to look out for and how to support follow colleagues while still respecting boundaries, and when to pull in professional support.
Finally, in addition to building a culture that prioritizes mental health, it is important for training to also consider mental well-being. According to research by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, feeling valued and supported, being perceived fairly and having role clarity are important factors when considering workplace well-being. These factors also link to employee engagement and contributions to support organizational growth.
When considering mental health and well-being in the workplace, it is important to take stock of the possibilities as well as the limitations. With a well-designed training program, employers can create an organizational culture that prioritizes mental health and wellbeing over the long term.