Over the last decade or so, the corporate training industry has made progress in addressing the impact of mental health challenges on our ability to work. However, those challenges are being exacerbated by the uncertainty of economic, societal and operational changes, like the current health crisis and its resulting changes to the nature of work. Mental health problems are the hidden struggle: less obvious than physical injury or sickness and often overlooked by managers and company leaders. In the United States, 20% of adults experience mental illness each year, yet only 43% receive the help they need.
Furthermore, mental health problems have an impact on productivity and a staggering associated cost to both companies and individuals. In 2011, a report by Harvard School of Public Health and the World Economic Forum estimated that mental illness would cost more than $16.1 trillion over the following 20 years. And because mental illnesses are not as obvious as physical ones, they are less likely to be identified and treated. As a result, employees are more likely to continue working, worsening their condition.
In order to address these issues head on, the responsibility may fall upon learning and development (L&D) teams to proactively shape employee knowledge and behaviors toward positive mental health and resilience.
Corporate Training for Mental Health and Resilience
One of the best ways to address this issue is to dispel misconceptions about mental health and create a supportive environment. Corporate training for mental health should teach employees about common conditions, reduce the stigma around them, and educate employees on how to recognize signs of mental health problems in themselves and their peers. Considering the broad spectrum of mental health and illness, it might be more effective to focus on specific conditions tied to stress and burnout, such as depression and anxiety. Resilience training should also accompany this mental health training and should focus on empowering employees with the skills to recognize when they’re experiencing stress and burnout and then work to reduce them.
Many organizations already have employee wellness programs in place. Traditionally, those programs focus on physical wellness, but they provide an opportunity for collaboration with human resources (HR) teams. For example, you might launch a mentoring program that prepares mentors to offer support around psychological well-being as well as professional development.
How Can Mental Health and Resilience Help Employees?
As with any corporate training, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Training to address mental health problems and increase resilience should be tailored to the needs of your company — in particular, it should be tailored to your employees. For example, if your work environment is fully online or involves some remote work, training should focus on how to improve online communication and establish good work-life balance in order to avoid burnout and help employees who suffer from anxiety.
You may also want to consider establishing an advocacy group or program that is tailored to giving employees a voice. This type of initiative is especially beneficial for organizations where employees feel discouraged from speaking up about their health and instead, direct their energies solely on their job. A large stumbling block for tackling mental health problems in the workplace is that employees often aren’t as proactive about talking about their own struggles because the work environment itself is contributing to the problem.
What Can Managers Do?
The conversation about mental health must start with the management team in order to bring everyone on board. Leaders need to create a culture that makes these conversations easier and facilitates progress toward positive mental health and resilience. On top of implementing corporate training, consider building custom eLearning activities and personalized content that gives employees choices around how they’ll approach their own mental health and that accommodates individual differences and needs.
L&D managers should also normalize conversations about both physical and mental well-being and consider whether mobile apps or on-demand training solutions may help provide wellness or mental health support for employees. Many of the resources and support systems around seeking treatment for mental health have already moved toward digital access due to health concerns.
Toward the Future of Corporate Training
Now, more than ever, employees are susceptible to stress and burnout, with the uncertainty surrounding our lives worsening anxiety and depression. Taking the steps to build resilience and create a supportive company culture tells your employees that you’re looking out for them and that they can feel stable, safe, included and supported. When we look out for one another, and with the right support and resources, we can give ourselves time to take care of our mental health and make our workspaces a better place, even from home.