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Helping Employees’ Mental Health in the Workplace

Employee on phone at her office desk

According to the Globe Mental Health Report 2022 published by the World Health Organization, close to one billion individuals worldwide are affected by some mental health disorder. In the first year of the pandemic, there was a greater than 25 % increase in the prevalence of previously relatively widespread illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.

Keeping these statistics in mind, what actions can a manager of people take to promote the psychological well-being of their employees in the workplace

Lower the Social Stigma Connected to Mental Health

More individuals in your company have probably been influenced by sensitive issues like mental illness and suicide than you know; the matter is not brought up openly. You are the one who can initiate a change in the culture of the workplace that will make it possible for employees to have open and honest conversations about their emotional well-being. Do you have much stress because you have a deadline coming up? Are you experiencing a rough day directly due to the ongoing unpredictability in the work environment? You can help normalize conversations about mental health simply by being open and honest about how you feel in your roles as managers and senior leaders.

You may discuss both your physical health and your mental health independently as being of equal importance. Additionally, this will influence the way you manage your staff. Do you show the same degree of compassion and understanding to a person struggling with their physical health as you do to those struggling with their mental health?

One of the most effective ways to combat the harmful effects of stigma is to speak out against it. If you feel comfortable doing so, you should have dialogues with your colleagues regarding mental health and clarify that stigma has no place in the workplace. It might be good to educate oneself and others and always remember that the words you use matter. When characterizing someone with a mental illness, you should never use stigmatizing terms like “crazy.”

Acquaint yourself with the company's health benefits, options for taking leave, and resources.

Many executives have been overheard asking one another, “Don’t we have a human resources or benefits department for that?” Yes, indeed. Be conscious that it may be too intimidating for workers coping with severe mental health symptoms to communicate to HR about their struggles. Therefore, it is essential for you to be familiar with the leave rules of your firm and to save the necessary phone numbers in a convenient location so that you can immediately provide them to workers who have a need.

Even if you have the contact information readily available, there is no assurance that an employee struggling will feel free to ask for assistance. As a result, a manager needs to cultivate an atmosphere of support for employees who are having difficulty communicating their needs and looking for help in the first place. A casual investigation that I expect from my immediate reports twice a week along the boundaries of “how are you accomplishing right now on a level of 1 to 10?” is one of the practices that I utilize. I always follow up with the inquiry, “what is driving that figure for you today?” after the first statement. Regarding people who have received lower ratings, I examine what assistance other team members or I can give. This eventually normalized the debate around the workload and other variables outside of work that was generating stress for my team members. On my team, we’ve called this number the “Serena Index,” and it’s the kind of straightforward procedure that I’d recommend any manager adopt.

Recognize the unique obstacles that people of color in the workforce face.

It is widely established that persons of color (often referred to as POC) experience severe difficulties receiving mental health treatment because of racism. In other cases, people of color and their families face impediments in the form of language and cultural obstacles. Additionally, various racial groupings have specific challenges.

For instance, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community frequently deal with the "model minority myth." This fiction is a stereotype that distinguishes the AAPI society as a subservient and hard-working class that accomplishes more enormous success than the rest due to their innate talents and production ethic. The AAPI society challenges many of the same disputes as other groups. This creates an excessive strain on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) to present an image of prosperity and flawlessness.

According to the Office of Minority Health of the Department of Health and Human Services, black adults “are more likely than white adults to show continuing symptoms of sensitive distress, such as grief and feeling like everything is an attempt.” This is just one instance. Another instance is that black adults “are more likely than white adults to show continuing symptoms of sensitive distress.” Even though many Black individuals with mental illnesses do not obtain treatment, just one in three of those adults are Black.

To react to these difficulties, the first stage, awareness, is followed by several practical activities that a manager might take. First, try to listen and respect the various cultural norms actively. When a team member from a different background shares their story, it is essential to listen with the intent of comprehending rather than responding. To continue your education, the second step is to get acquainted with the employee resource groups (ERGs) that are offered by the organization and to join these groups actively. Please acknowledge that you will not be able to fully grasp what another person is going through and continue to be there for them despite this.

Promote A Perception of Belonging

According to a recent survey by Qualtrics, a feeling of belonging is one of the top drivers of employee engagement. People who feel belonging at their place of employment are almost three times as likely to have a higher overall sense of well-being than those who do not (78 % vs. 28 %). The following are some of the ways that leaders and managers may help strengthen a feeling of belonging in their organizations:

  • Maintaining an open line of communication

  • Using language that is inclusive and technology that is accessible

  • Participation of workers in decision-making processes by giving them more agency

Learn to Understand the Symptoms of Burnout and Recognize How It Varies from Depression.

Managers’ job is to keep their employees from being burned out. Although burnout is not a diagnosable mental illness, it is essential to watch for specific warning signals in workers. These indicators include weariness, withdrawal from activities connected to work, and decreased performance.

Both burnout and depression are distinct conditions, even though they may have specific physical symptoms. A person suffering from depression may experience despair, exhaustion, loss of interest in activities that formerly gave them pleasure, and thoughts of ending their own lives. According to Dr. Rebecca Brendel, who serves as the president of the American Psychiatric Association, one of the most important differences is that symptoms of burnout improve when the individual takes time off from work or goes on vacation. Altering your environment won't make depression disappear, no matter how much you try. The following are some measures that a manager may take to minimize staff burnout:

  • promoting relaxation and time off

  • Keeping constant contact with workers to discuss their respective workloads

  • Having expectations that are in line with reality

  • ensuring that there are enough resources for the task

Research that the World Health Organization conducted found that expanding treatment options for those suffering from anxiety and depression led to a return on investment that was four times greater than the initial investment. Since the beginning of time, superiors and managers have been tasked with concentrating on their employee’s performance and the accomplishment of their goals. However, we now understand that emphasizing workers' mental health is a moral and strategic choice for the company.


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