Addressing mental health in the workplace is becoming increasingly important – for several reasons. First, employees can’t perform their best when they’re not mentally well. Work also tends to be a primary source of stress for many people, which means that companies have a responsibility to help alleviate some of that burden. Given this, it’s critical for HR teams to prioritise and support the mental health of their workforce. We’ll share ideas to help you accomplish this.
The importance of mental health in the workplace
Before we get into the recommendations, let’s take a closer look at how mental health issues are impacting your employees. According to the 2019 Thriving Workplace Survey National Report, which surveyed over 10,000 Australian workers in a broad range of industries and occupations, 50.6% of the Australian workforce had experienced a mental health condition.
Unfortunately, work was one of the top reasons for these mental health issues – with two in five employees reporting that their workplace either caused their condition or made it worse. This is largely due to factors like high-stress deadlines, unmanageable workloads, and demanding clients. As a result, these work-related mental health conditions cost approximately $543 million in workers compensation and $750 million in life insurance claims paid to Australians.
Despite these pervasive issues, more than half of Australian workers don’t believe their employers have taken any actions to improve their wellbeing. This demonstrates that there’s a clear gap between what employees need to perform their best and what companies are actually doing to support this need.
Ideas to help employees with mental health at work
If you truly want to address the mental health of your employees, there are various steps you can take as an HR team. Some of these recommendations come in the form of additional benefits, while others are behaviors you can start putting into action today. Choose whichever ideas are the most aligned with the needs of your workforce, and go from there.
1. Invest in mental health benefits
Now is a great time to update your benefits package and include offerings that improve emotional wellbeing. For example, we’re partnering with Headspace for Work to support Flare’s customers on their journey to bring mental health programs and wellbeing into their workplaces. Another idea is to cover the cost of counseling sessions or a virtual therapy app for your employees.
If you have a limited budget and can’t introduce significant programs like this right now, start small. Give employees designated “mental health” days to take time away from work and recharge. Or host a virtual series of employee-led wellness events to guide people through meditation or yoga sessions. There are many creative ways to incorporate more mental-health focused offerings into your employee benefits.
2. Create a culture of wellness
Aside from benefits, we encourage organisations to make wellness a foundation of their company culture. What exactly does this mean? This means making work a place where it’s normal and encouraged to be honest about topics related to mental health. There are several ways to achieve this type of culture.
First, invest in mental health training for the entire company. This will help everyone better navigate conversations about mental health and develop more compassion for those who are struggling. Also, consider introducing safe spaces for employees to discuss their own progress or hardships with their mental wellness – this can be in the form of an Employee Resource Group, Slack channel, or monthly meeting. Finally, encourage your executive team to lead by example. When the CEO is willing to speak openly about a tough topic, it’ll inspire the rest of the organisation to follow suit.
3. Commit to specific goals
It may be helpful to identify metrics when it comes to these mental health initiatives. Not only will it help you track progress, but it’ll also hold everyone accountable to these investments. So whether it’s aiming to reduce the stress levels of employees by 10% or having 90% of your employees feel that their mental health is supported at work, commit to specific goals.
From there, you can use regular wellness surveys, employee focus groups, or one-on-one conversations to gauge how your company is progressing. Collecting this type of feedback can also alert you to programs that aren’t performing as they should and give you an opportunity to iterate on them as needed.
Mental health plays such a huge role when it comes to the overall happiness, performance, and wellbeing of your employees. Don’t overlook this critical aspect of your HR strategy and make sure to introduce initiatives that support the mental health needs of your workfroce.
If you have any employees who need support, be sure to check out Wellness@Work, a free hub designed to support HR and Australian workers by giving them access to free content.