How can business support mental health in the workplace

MX Bites / March 24, 2022

We’ve seen Mental health take on all shapes and forms as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.  Organizations have had to relook at how they’ve dealt with it in the past and as a result, has now become a high priority. We understand the pandemic has created a heightened sense of uncertainty with the increased isolation due to remote working shift companies have had to adapt to ultimately putting pressure on workforce mental wellbeing. 

Prior to the pandemic, many companies really zoomed in on their focus on workplace mental health which was traditionally expressed by employees themselves and those efforts are even more imperative today. When we consider the misconceptions associated with mental health challenges, finding a safe space to tell your story and receive support from allies is a critical step. Simply realizing that you’re not alone can go a long way. 

What is mental health?

It is never the easiest thing to define since it is perceived and experienced differently by many people. In a nutshell, Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being affecting how we feel and behave.

As trends and focuses naturally evolve, leaders are likely to see employees struggle with anxiety, depression, burnout, trauma, and PTSD. Those mental health experiences will differ according to race, economic opportunity, citizenship status, job type, parenting, and caregiving responsibilities, alongside many other variables. So, what can managers and leaders do to support people as they face new stressors, safety concerns, and economical instabilities? Here are areas we feel are worth considering:

Exploring workplace wellness…

Workplace wellness is essentially any workplace health promotion activity or organizational practice or policy designed to support healthy behavior in your workplace. It can range from simply allowing time for exercise or providing on-site kitchen and eating areas and healthy food options to health education, on-site medical screenings, or weight management programs.

Having to initiate the conversation surrounding mental health, or your concerns for a peer can be a tricky topic to navigate unless you have a really open relationship with them, and while that may not be the case for all organizations, having to spark it up in informal group activities could spark enthusiasm.

How can managers contribute?

We believe that managers, especially new and young team leaders, may have a unique opportunity to center employee care and push for a necessary cultural shift. When managers lead conversations about performance and productivity with empathy and care, everyone feels more valued and supported. Similarly, when managers prioritize learning about their direct reports’ interests and strengths, understanding what success means to them, and creating goals that help them meet both their professional and personal goals.

Creating a culture for connection

Every organization has its personality and atmosphere – and that’s not something easy to engineer. Gives a sense of belonging to employees, motivating them to become more involved both within the organization and outside. This too creates an impact on their overall perception of the organizations.

Engage, listen, understand and support staff

The most important and meaningful change will come from how leaders engage, understand and support staff at a more developmental level. Leaders should focus on the following areas through understanding the difference between urgency and importance and focusing on the latter; being compassionate while driving employees to action by channeling their feelings of frustration or despair. Finally, trust, transparency and openness will need to be the pillars of leadership and workplace HR policies of the future.

We need to better understand the concerns, be proactive with ideas and programs, and reach out to all of our people across the organization, including our families and our communities so that they are aware that we care and that we will help. Having a focus on this makes us all better for both our short and long-term personal and professional life and health.

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