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Mental Health x

Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health has long been a taboo subject, especially that of workplace discussions. Thirty-eight percent of employees believed their bosses would perceive their mental health concerns as an excuse to not work and 34% believed it would negatively influence their chances of promotions.1 Because of this negative stigma, many people do not seek help. Particularly in the blue-collar industry, mental and emotional well-being demands just as much attention as physical health. The common perspective of both men and those who work in manual labor jobs is that they have to be tough, which oftentimes hinders the ability to admit there’s a problem and seeking help.

Did you know that mental health, specifically depression, is the leading cause of disability worldwide? Some of the industries with the highest rates of depression or other mental health issues include construction, manufacturing, public transportation, real estate, social services, and legal services.

Mental Health Facts

  • Mental health’s impact is universal, common, and can have long-lasting effects. It does not discriminate – any gender, race, socioeconomic status, geographic location – mental health issues can formulate anywhere, at any time, in anyone. It is also more common despite popular belief that you may be alone or that nobody will understand you. If ignored and left untreated, mental illness can have serious consequences, such as hospitalization, workplace violence, or suicide. These long-lasting effects can take a toll.
  •  Prolonged or serious mental health issues affect productivity. Depression can reduce productivity by 20% and cognitive performance by 35%.2 Mental health problems typically cause ineffective communications, which in turn can result in poor productivity and professional relationships.
  •  Not only does poor mental health compromise work productivity, but it also increases safety liabilities. People whose mental health is compromised can affect workplace decision-making that may put themselves and coworkers in danger.
  • Workplace environments can increase the impact on mental health. For example, working in a particular role that places a person under extreme conditions can impact mental health. A person who works outside in extreme heat and executes work that requires dangerous machinery or tasks might suffer mental health issues. Physical health issues can also lead to mental health issues. Stress eating and/or drinking could lead to toxic habits that can influence self-confidence and create mental health problems.

How Management Can Help

Though the fight for mental health awareness has proved effective as the rates for those seeking treatment reflect in recent years, but the number remains high. The best way to combat the issue is to take a proactive role in doing so. Management is the first line of response to relieving the situation.

Here are some tips on how management can take action:

  • Education and training. One of the greatest hurdles to providing proper mental health awareness is the lack of education and training. There are countless resources to seek adequate education and training to assist in recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health issues. While education and training does not necessarily mean you’re a qualified professional to give advice, it allows you to refer certified mental health professionals when someone is in need beyond venting or a shoulder to cry on.3
  • Foster a healthy company culture. There are countless ways to develop a healthy company culture. Creating and distributing a monthly (or bi-weekly) newsletter that focuses on announcements, resources, conversation starters, team activities or events, and other relevant topics can encourage camaraderie and open communications between all employees. Conducting a weekly meditative or relaxation workshop could be beneficial. Something as simple as doing a puzzle or a yoga workshop could provide meditation and relaxation. If you want something more social and inclusive, perhaps hosting weekly company lunches or potlucks could offer the opportunity for people to connect and enjoy a free meal.
  • Provide resources. There are many ways to provide resources to your employees. For example, proving self-assessment tools, free or subsidized clinical screenings for mental health concerns (which can later be discussed with mental health professionals), health insurance discounts for mental health treatment, programs for lifestyle coaching or counseling, seminars or workshops for mental health like breathing exercises, stress management, and other ways to reduce anxiety and stress. Distributing informational materials about the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns and available treatment resources can help ensure employees know what and where to find such resources should they need or want help.
  • Take a hands-on role. As a leader in your organization, people rely on you for sound decision-making that leads to peaceful and efficient resolution. Some ways to take a more hands-on approach to mental health wellness is to pay closer attention to the number of hours your employees work and ensuring proper rest and meal breaks are being taken. Other things that can contribute to poor mental health are unrealistic demands, such as working extended hours or weekends. Perhaps offering equal distribution of extended hours among your workforce could alleviate some of the pressures and stress associated with such demand. Rewarding your workers for meeting goals or volunteering and continuing their dedication to the job through monetary or even a company- or management-provided lunch could show your appreciation. Healthier supervision is a key component to a hands-on role, which includes all of the above, as well as not being afraid to jump in and help out. Showcasing your skills and conducting work at the same level may show your respect and appreciation for their work, as well as leadership in that you’re willing to do what it takes to help out.

Though the movement to push mental health wellness to the forefront of political debates and legislative change, it is just as important for employers to take initiative in proactively providing education, training, and resources for their employees. Physical health is just as important as mental health. For ways to implement more comprehensive employee benefit solutions, contact Harbor America. As your partner in HR services, we value your business and are committed to providing the expertise you seek.