This article explores some of the strategies used by businesses to be mentally friendly workplaces. Research shows these workplaces enjoy higher levels of engagement, productivity, profitability and retention!
1. Promote a Healthy Work Life Balance
Encouraging a healthy balance of work and life is key to becoming a mentally friendly workplace. Employees who have engaging lives outside the office and take time to care for themselves are more likely to remain highly productive and have a reduced risk of burnout.
In contrast, workplace practices like long working hours, working over the weekend, being unable to unplug, being unable to take time off are signs of a workplace culture that has an unhealthy work life balance.
2. Provide Education
Staff may benefit from education so that they can better understand the symptoms of poor mental health. They’ll be become more likely to seek early support and understanding the strategies that can help them become more resilient.
While managers are often highly trained professionals, they may also need education about mental health and how work can contribute to mental illness. This isn’t to say that managers should provide medical assistance, but a caring conversation between a manager and an employee can have enormous value for employees when it comes to managing early signs of mental ill health.
Education can be practical and/or solution-focused. For example, guest speakers or in-service trainings on key capabilities like self-care, stress management and resilience may really benefit employees. This kind of training will help employees to go far in their careers and can be an excellent business investment.
3. Talk About Mental Health
Businesses can reduce the stigma associated with mental health by talking about mental health, self care, stress management and other related topics.
Mental health shouldn’t be taboo: most people will face some sort of mental health challenge during their working life, whether that is stress, anxiety, depression or another type of mental illness. These conditions are treatable, and staff are more likely to seek early support if the workplace doesn’t stigmatise mental health.
Some businesses have seen success in creating ‘mental health champions’, combining education with a dedicated person in the workplace to lead the conversation on mental health.
4. Prioritise Employee Wellbeing
Business should support employees to develop good habits and improve their mental health. Exercise and healthy eating is a great starting point. Consider offerings incentives or support for these habits through your Employee Assistance Programs and/or Employee Benefits Programs.
It’s also really important to support employees in their efforts to get help to maintain or improve their mental health. Having flexible work schedules or the ability to take a mental health day can be invaluable, but there are many alternatives to support employees.
5. Measure Relevant Indicators
Data on employee wellbeing can add valuable insight to help a business identify issues and plan to make improvements. For example, data on employee wellbeing might identify specific roles that are at-risk, or a period of time that is particularly challenging for the business.
Alternatively, businesses might monitor risk factors, such as the design or management of work.
… but there are many innovative approaches.
Of course, there are many ways to create a mentally friendly workplace. Smaller actions like offering stress-relieving activities like yoga, booze-free socialising, or creating a mental health toolkit, or even bringing pets to work, may have a role to play in your workplace.
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