3 ways to promote mental health and wellness in the workplace

Standing by and supporting employees when they experience a mental health problem delivers a powerful message about your company’s true morals.

Let’s face it: Businesses function better when their team members are mentally healthy, focused and motivated.

Yet, according to a recent online statistic, one in six workers right now is dealing with a mental health issue like anxiety, stress or depression. Unfortunately, this can stop people in their tracks and prevent them from performing at their best.

Smart business leaders today support staff who may be experiencing mental health issues to cope and recover. In fact, studies reveal that the support employees report receiving from their employers is critical in determining how well – and how swiftly – they can get back to performing to the best of their capabilities.

Following the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, the end of a marriage or even the loss of a job, it’s hard enough to carry on each day, let alone exude positivity and contribute to the success of a business.

So, while emotional trauma is an inevitable part of the human experience, there are steps business leaders and companies can take to help employees find hope in turbulent times, especially in the workplace.

Here are three ways to promote mental health and wellness in your organization:

Develop a culture that supports employee mental health

Staff members admit they are often scared to tell their supervisor about a mental health issue. One survey revealed that one in five people said they did not feel comfortable telling their manager they were overly stressed at work. Also, less than half of employees officially diagnosed with a mental health condition had shared this information with their boss.

Employers must send a clear signal to employees that their mental health matters. One method to communicate this message is to clarify that mental health will be addressed and treated equally to physical health.

You can also back your commitment up with a strategic mental health plan, along with the implementation of policies, to make sure that any employee experiencing mental health issues gets the support they need immediately.

Encourage open communication

While work can be a stressful element in a person’s life, many employees often don’t feel like they are able to ask for help when they’re struggling. Unfortunately, not saying anything to anyone can breed misunderstandings, thus making it more challenging for individuals to be communicative.

With this aspect in mind, it’s essential that employers regularly ask team members how they’re doing. This simple strategy can help build trust between staff member and supervisor, and also can help boost the employee’s confidence to speak up sooner should they need support.

Also, while some business leaders might stress about how to bring up a conversation about a staff member’s mental health, it really only requires a combination of empathy, common sense, making yourself “approachable” and being there to genuinely listen to someone going through a difficult time.

In some scenarios, when supervisors lack the confidence to discuss mental health issues with a staff member, they may make this critical conversation too cold and formal. However, the way managers behave and the relationship they have with team members are key in determining how everyone will respond if they are experiencing poor mental health. It’s vital that managers start this process off in a supportive, positive manner.

Offer continued support

Clear policies on workplace adjustments are vital to help staff cope and recover from a mental health issue. Having procedures and documentation in place can also shorten the length of overall work absences.

You can start the process of helping an employee by developing proactive steps to address the primary issues they’re struggling with. These steps are typically extra support from his or her direct supervisor or simple temporary tweaks to their job role and responsibilities.

Keep in mind, effective steps vary from person to person. With this in mind, it’s crucial that you have a significant talk with the specific employee about his or her needs and truly listen to what they are saying.

Finally, be positive and try to focus on what the employee can actually do, versus than what they can’t, during their struggle. Work together and involve other team members, if possible, to determine solutions.

Some final thoughts

Standing by and supporting employees when they experience a mental health problem is not merely about holding onto a valuable staff member; it delivers a powerful message about your company’s true morals.

At the end of the day, all employees need to see that their employer eats, breathes and lives its values, but most importantly, always treats its staff with dignity and respect, even in turbulent times.

Ulrich Kellerer is an inspirational business leader, international speaker and mental health activist from Munich, Germany. For over 20 years, Kellerer worked in the European fashion industry as the founder and CEO of the German clothing line, Faro Fashion. Kellerer is the co-author of The Soul of Success with Jack Canfield and the author of the recently-released title, One Moment Can Change Your Life: Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary People. Today, he dedicates his time to fighting the depression epidemic and promoting mental health in the workplace.