Mental Health In The Workplace
The New Era Of Employees
Mental health affects an alarming part of the population, and the pandemic has only increased these numbers. Seventy-six percent of people reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition, up 59% since 2019. For many people, the workforce is a huge contributing factor to their poor mental health.
The silver lining of this issue is the fact that mental health awareness has started to be normalized in the workplace. Nearly two-thirds of respondents reported they talked to someone about their mental health at work in the past year. Although some employers have responded with initiatives such as mental health days, four day weekends, and better counseling benefits or programs, it is still not enough.
Some steps that might actually help would be:
Change the Culture. Leaders need to make mental health a top priority with regular mental health screenings and be allies by sharing their own experiences. Organizations need to train leaders to learn how to have difficult conversations and create a culture of openness in the office.
Change the Work. The work expected from employees need to be more sustainable. A critical component of this is flexibility, as many places navigate going back to the office from a remote working style. Creating boundaries, such as no email after work hours, focused hours, and no meeting days could also help.
Create a Connection. People need to feel connected, even in the workforce. Integrating weekly check ins to foster healthy work relationships could do wonders. Employers should also provide organization-wide opportunities to create deeper connections among employees.
There are steps employees can take as well, such as sharing personal stories to reduce the stigma, learn and participate in their companies mental health programs, and encourage their employers to adopt mental health and stress management education if it is not already available. The societal shift to prioritize mental health has led to employees demanding more out of their employers, and organizations need to respond. There needs to be a culture change as well, with increased compassion, vulnerability, and sustainable ways of working.
The University of New Hampshire has their own Employee Assistance Program, with various resources and benefits available for employees.