Mental health and employee well-being knows no season. Yet monthly and seasonal touchpoints provide a terrific opportunity for employers to help employees make the best use of company-offered mental wellness resources. The need to engage employees with these benefits has never been more evident.

According to the latest Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition with a focus on June 2022 data, employees are at a 51% greater risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic; and sustained attention is down 44% in contrast to pre-pandemic times. While these numbers are alarming, it should be noted that before the pandemic, mental health issues impacting the workplace were already at crisis levels. It has taken a global pandemic to shine a much-needed spotlight on employee mental health issues and drive innovative corporate mental health and wellness initiatives.

Thanks to a pandemic-fueled emotional rollercoaster, we have seen a dramatic upsurge in employers evolving their health strategies and boosting their investments in mental health. In fact, according to Wellable’s 2021 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report, nine out of 10 employers plan to invest more in mental health to meet the needs of a modern workforce under increasing prolonged stress. New investments include 24/7 helplines, telehealth counseling, mental health digital tools, free therapy sessions and management training.

With the outpouring of new mental health policies and benefits comes a need for a consistent cadence of employee communications — and workers agree. A 2019 nationwide employee survey found that when it comes to mental health, what people want most in the workplace is a more open and accepting culture, training and more easily accessible information about where to go or who to ask for mental health support.

Seasonal Employee Wellness Training

A great way to promote employee wellness training and mental health support can be to create themed in person and virtual training sessions tied to a season, international holiday and/or national day of observance. This can be a terrific way to build employee engagement through the use of activities and challenges.

At a minimum, companies should implement a quarterly webinar or in-person training (ILT) session with supplementary quarterly wellness challenges. Each webinar and challenge can be an opportunity to open dialogue among colleagues, communicate benefits and help remove the stigma. Let’s look at a few examples of ideas to consider for employee wellness training.

Small Steps to Big Change

New Year’s seems to be synonymous with making healthy lifestyle changes. Yet, any lasting change can be difficult. Take this time to help your employees learn how to take small steps to create healthy change.

  • Create a learning session on ways to build healthy habits and inform employees about available company-sponsored resources. Follow up with small discussion groups.
  • Compliment the learning session with a “3 x 3 Challenge.” Ask employees to pledge to track one healthy habit three times a week for three weeks. Give participants an opportunity to win prizes, such as gift cards.
  • Start an employee book club that focuses on books and resources with wellness tips and best practices.

National Mental Health Month

May is National Mental Health Month. This observance is intended to raise awareness of trauma and its impact on the physical, emotional and mental health and well-being of individuals and communities. We have all experienced some form of trauma in our lives, whether it’s from one specific experience or cumulative micro-moments from economic, political and social unrest. A trauma-informed workplace recognizes the effect of trauma on employees and works to create a resource-rich supportive environment needed to heal and succeed.

  • Create trauma-informed training sessions for management and leadership teams.
  • Provide management and leadership with trauma coping techniques and resources on empathetic leadership. Create a follow up discussion group.
  • Complement the learning session with an all employee “2 x 4 Challenge:” two “get to know you better” offsite coffee chats with co-workers each week for one month. Offer gift cards for coffee outings.
  • Consider offering employees digital tools that can enable them to assess and manage their own mental health and measure their risk of PTSD.

Daylight Savings Time: How to Have a Better Night’s Sleep

A restful night’s sleep can help people wake up recharged and ready to tackle their day. But for those who have struggled to fall asleep, they know just how detrimental sleep deprivation can be for both physical and mental health.

  • Create a virtual learning session that focuses on how to create a calm, relaxing pre-sleep space to help employees fall asleep quicker and stay asleep during the night. It can also train employees to wake up with positive thoughts, which can help lessen stress throughout the day, thus enabling them to fall asleep faster.
  • If your company offers digital relaxation and anxiety-reducing tools to support better sleep, create a complementary “8 x 8 Challenge:” Ask employees to track sleep with the goal of getting eight hours of sleep for a minimum of eight nights in the month. Give participants an opportunity to win prizes.

December: Mastering Stress

Stress is a normal part of life, especially during the holidays. However, prolonged exposure to stress can impact both physical and mental health.

  • Create a learning session to explore how stress impacts both the body and mind and how to start building resilience to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Help participants understand stress triggers and how to master stress in the moment and for the long term.
  • Complement the learning session with a “15 x 5 Challenge:” Ask employees to take 15 minutes each workday for one week to do a mindfulness Provide digital tools to guide the process. All participants are put into a drawing for gift card(s).
  • Ask employees to respond to a quick survey on how this made them feel. Consider establishing a 15-minute mindfulness break each day for all employees.

Looking Ahead

For each of these examples you can repurpose the content and pull bite-sized tips to share via all relevant employee communications channels such as employee newsletters, blogs and email blasts. And before you get started, don’t forget to talk with your mental health benefits vendors about ways they can help you cost effectively and efficiently reach employees. They are often chock-full of resources and educational materials designed to meet your needs.

Mental health and well-being knows no season, but the time to begin engaging your workers with available resources is now.