Thanks to the devastating fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health support in the workplace is being dragged into the spotlight - moving from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a business-critical people strategy.
As Lizzo would put it; It’s about damn time.
But as with any major people & culture challenge, HR leaders are struggling to understand which strategies to implement at what part of the employee journey to best support their people.
Today we’ll be looking at the impact positive mental health support can make in your workplace, what strategies yield the best results, and why focusing your efforts on transition moments in the employee experience is a great place to start.
The state of mental health in the workplace
Globally, the World Health Organization estimates more than 280 million people suffer from depression and that 1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime.
From an economic perspective, the story doesn’t get any better. According to the World Economic Forum, in the next two decades, mental illness will be responsible for half of the economic burden of disease - that’s more than diabetes, cancer and respiratory illnesses combined.
Although experts are divided on whether more people are living with poor mental health than in the past, or if simply more people are talking about it, one thing is clear: the stigma around mental health is starting to diminish, at least at work. A 2019 study from Mind Share Partners revealed that in the last year, 60% of respondents had not spoken to their colleagues about their mental health. Fast forward to 2021 and the story is very different with 65% of respondents having verbalized their mental health struggles at work.
The benefits of supporting mental health in the workplace
The benefits of investing in mental health support structures for your people are numerous. Besides the obvious personal benefits for your employees, such as achieving a happier, healthier, more fulfilling work experience, there are several tangible business benefits:
In the Netherlands, 42% of sick days are attributed to mental health-related reasons including burnout. This costs employers in a multitude of ways from the obvious financial burden to the more intangible morale and productivity price. According to Deloitte, increased investment in workplace mental health support is linked to a decrease in absenteeism.
People suffering from mental health conditions such as depression tend to leave their jobs more frequently than those who do not. Aside from being unpleasant for the employee, this is obviously not good for business considering losing a team member can cost your organization an estimated 1.5-2 times that person's salary. Providing employees access to proactive mental health support services is the way to empower your people to keep on top of their well-being and safeguard your organization’s talent.
Poor mental health is a roadblock to creativity according to research from Betterup. This comes as no surprise considering creativity is closely linked to the production of endorphins, the chemical our body releases to help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve our sense of well-being. Employees unable to access their creativity are less likely to be good problem solvers or team players, so if you want to mine the depths of your people’s creative minds, a solid mental health support framework is the answer.
Strategies for supporting mental health in the workplace
The specific information you offer will vary depending on your organization, industry and the needs of your employee base, but in general, you’ll want to build a strategy that supports each of the 4 A’s of a Mental Health-Friendly Workplace.
Awareness means building a strategy that educates both employees and managers on mental health issues to destigmatize the topic of mental health and foster a supportive organizational culture. Awareness initiatives could take the form of regular training sessions, the sharing of educational blogs, podcasts and webinars, or even a company-wide day that aims to shed light on common mental health struggles.
Accommodations is providing employees experiencing poor mental health the support they need to perform in their role. This might look like hybrid working arrangements, adapted working schedules, or other flexible arrangements that allow your employee to adapt their work life to their well-being.
Assistance refers to helping employees manage their mental health through various assistance programs. This could be via apps that help with stress management, professional sessions with an in-house counsellor, regular one-on-one sessions with a manager or HR representative, or as part of a wider EAP (employee assistance plan).
Access is about encouraging exploring ways that you as an employer can ensure or increase coverage for behavioural/mental health treatment as part of your organization’s benefit scheme. Access in practice may mean overhauling your benefits packages to include gym memberships, wellness coaching, specialised mental health services and more.
Mental health support during employee transitions
Now we come to the final piece of the puzzle: WHEN to introduce these initiatives for maximum effect?
Employee transitions, as we know, are moments of high stress for your people. Whether they’re joining your organization for the first time (pre and onboarding), coming back after an absence (reboarding), moving from one role to another (crossboarding), or exiting the company altogether (offboarding), transitions are a great time to introduce elements of your mental health support strategy to your employees.
During pre and onboarding
The pre and onboarding phase is the perfect moment to put mental health in the spotlight. It’s your opportunity to let your newest team member know that your organization values mental health support and showcase any initiatives you’ve put in place.
Consider utilizing an anonymous survey in this phase to get to grips with how your newest joiners feel about mental health in the workplace to give you some nice ideas of how to improve your practices in the future.
Employees going through a reboarding process are often returning to your organization after a milestone moment in their lives - whether that’s a new baby, a new home, a lengthy overseas trip, or for many of us recently, a global pandemic. The right mental health support services can be the difference between a traumatic return to work, and a confident re-start.
Try offering some re-adjustment sessions here where reboardees can access the services of a mental health professional to talk through their return to work in a safe, non-judgmental space. They can raise any worries they may be having and put some tools in place to help them handle difficult moments.
Getting a promotion sounds like a great time, but for people who suffer from anxiety, a promotion can be a double-edged sword, equal parts exciting and terrifying. Formalizing mental health support during the crossboarding phase can help your people process these feelings and allow them to enjoy the career growth experience.
A great option here is to offer crossboardees access to an on-demand self-help tool they can use to improve their own mental health whenever they need it. You can develop your own, or opt for a paid plan through established services such as Calm or Headspace - both of which offer an extensive range of work and career-related modules.
Leaving a job can be bittersweet. Sure you’re excited to move on to new challenges, but you’re also likely to feel nervous, worried and unsure of yourself, especially if you struggle with your mental health. The right mental health support during the offboarding phase can boost your leaver's confidence, offer closure and send them on their way with a positive lasting impression.
Offering leavers a free career consultation with an external third party can be a great way for leavers to tackle the feelings of trepidation that come with leaving a job. On top of that, this gesture will show them that you care about their growth, which is likely to relieve any guilt they may be feeling for jumping ship.
Some of these initiatives may look expensive to implement, and whilst they’re certainly not free, research conducted by the World Health Organization has found that for every $1 spent on treating common mental health concerns, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity for your organization. So it’s money well spent!
Here at Talmundo, we’re big believers in the idea that happy people are the lifeblood of any organization - but happy doesn’t just happen. We’re all human and we all have times when we struggle. The right mental health support services can make a world of difference.
Talmundo’s employee transition platform can help you deliver mental health support services to your people when they need them most. Book a call to find out more.