Managing mental health in the workplace has always been a concern for HR professionals, yet it’s become complicated the last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A health insurance report released earlier this year found that nearly half of American workers surveyed are suffering from mental health issues. Forty-six percent of the 1,400 workers surveyed in the report said they were struggling to maintain their mental well-being.
The result of this trend has been a decrease in employee morale and lost productivity. More workers are also struggling with substance abuse. This leads to the question most companies have for human resources departments: what mental health support can we provide employees?
Below are three ways your HR department can support employees who are struggling with their mental health.
Promote Company-Wide Mental Health Resources
Chances are your company has mental health programs available but many employees haven’t needed it until now. It’s time to remind them of these services.
For example, most insurance plans offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
EAPs are voluntary, work-based programs that offer mental health assessments, short-term counseling opportunities, referrals to specialists, and follow-up services to employees. They serve as the first place an employee can go if they need help.
Some companies are offering more robust telepsychiatry options for employees or offering access to mental well-being apps like Happify. The best way you can serve your employees is by reviewing your company’s health benefits package.
Does your company’s insurance plan cover mental health? If so, to what extent?
Check if employees have access to substance abuse treatment programs, long-term counseling, and prescription drug coverage.
Host Mental Health Support Trainings
As HR professionals, you’re experts at understanding workplace dynamics as it relates to mental health.
But, you’re not with your employees on a daily basis.
That’s why it’s important for managers and employees to complete training on mental health to reduce the stigma and teach them how to connect with the right mental health resources.
Several training options are available. Your department can host internal training sessions hosted by you, hire an external consultant, or enroll employees in online training programs.
The National Council For Mental Wellbeing, for example, offers a Mental Health First Aid at Work program.
There is still a lot of misunderstanding about mental health. Providing training to staff will help educate them about what it really is and how to get help before it gets worse.
A Healthy Work/Life Balance is Non-Negotiable
As Americans we are taught from an early age to work hard and sacrifice. To go above and beyond what is expected to achieve success. These are noble ideas that can produce real results, yet the problem is employee burnout and staff turnover can have a crippling effect on your company.
While the stress of COVID-19 is a major factor in these results, 27% of respondents also said they were unable to unplug from work (whether from a lack of boundaries or inability to take days off).
Interestingly, remote workers said they were experiencing a higher level of burnout in this survey. Thirty percent of on-site workers and 20% of remote workers also stated a lack of PTO was to blame.
Burnout has nothing to do with any perceived lack of work ethic. The fact is employees are logging in more late nights and weekends than ever before.
So, what can HR professionals do to help avoid burnout?
Many companies are offering flexible scheduling options or additional PTO days. They’re also ensuring that staff are taking breaks and feel empowered to disconnect when not scheduled to work.
Offering additional company perks like casual dress code days or office holidays has also been shown to help.
Prioritize Mental Health
HR departments are the first places employees go if they need assistance. But, it’s also important to proactively communicate all modes of mental health support. Start off by reviewing your company’s health insurance coverage to ensure that mental health is covered and then begin promoting these services to your employees.
Offering mental health training or certifications can also raise awareness among the entire staff.
Most importantly, offer an open and friendly HR environment where employees feel safe discussing their concerns or issues.
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