4 things about mental health in the workplace every employer should know
Tired African-American man wearing mask feeling exhausted, worrying about his job

Did you know that the average person spends approximately one-third of their life working? With so much time spent at a job, it’s important to create a positive environment. Plus, it’s in everyone’s best interest since happy and healthy employees are more productive.

Despite an employer’s best efforts, the lines between personal life and work life sometimes get blurred. Stress from home can affect individuals at work and vice versa. Ultimately, more organizations need to focus on employee mental health. After all, a company is only as good as its people.

Here are some things to keep in mind when checking in on your team.

1. Why employees are stressed

Stress can be caused by a multitude of things. Sometimes the cause isn’t even work-related, but it can affect your employees when they show up at work. An employee who’s worried about making their mortgage payments may show up to work with anxiety and worry. Or an employee who’s overwhelmed with unreasonable work deadlines might be unable to focus on work tasks.

Here are some of the most common reasons why employees feel stressed:

  • low salary/strained finances
  • heavy workloads
  • work that isn’t challenging
  • lack of support from managers or leadership
  • unrealistic expectations

Employers may not be able to solve all the causes of stress, but they can make sure that the work environment is supportive and inclusive. If you’re noticing that your employees are affected by their workload or poor leadership, it’s an indication that your office dynamics need to change.

2. How to identify mental illness in the workplace

It can be difficult to identify mental illness in the workplace because it affects people differently and symptoms vary. While a job might not directly cause depression, an unfriendly work environment can make employees feel scared, uncomfortable, or intimidated. And if poor mental health is unrecognized and unaddressed, it can cause larger problems for the individual and the organization.

Signs and symptoms of mental health to watch for in your employees:

  • Stressed and anxious
  • Drastic change in mood
  • Low productivity and increase in days off
  • Reduced appetite and/or weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Withdrawn and avoids interaction
  • Veiled comments about suicide or self-harm

TIP: Encourage your employees to go for a walk at lunch or exercise which can help improve mental health, (especially when working from home). Or maybe before starting a meeting you could suggest taking a minute to focus on breathing. Here’s an article with more mental health tips that you can share with your team: 3 ways to calm your mind when you’re feeling stressed.

3. How to address mental health in the workplace

One of the simplest ways that employers can address mental health in the workplace is through active listening. Employees want to feel heard, respected and cared for. This takes some effort as you’ll need to be free from your own distractions and stress. When listening, if you pick up on themes like social isolation or financial concerns it might be an indication that person is struggling with their mental health. Also, take note of a person’s facial cues which can tell a lot about how a person is feeling. Their body language might even go against what they’re saying out loud.

TIP: While working remotely, it’s nice to actually see your colleague’s faces on a video call. Even a voice chat can be a nice way to connect and genuinely hear how someone is doing.

Talking about mental health is slowly becoming more socially acceptable. However, there’s still a stigma about addressing it at work. Yet employers have a responsibility to their employees to create an open, inclusive, and safe environment. So, promoting mental health in the workplace should be a top priority.

Here are a few ways that employers can encourage positive mental health:

  • Encourage employee participation and decision making
  • Be a macromanager – not a micromanager
  • Clearly define employees' roles and responsibilities
  • Promote work-life balance
  • Encourage respectful behaviours
  • Give manageable workloads
  • Promote continuous learning
  • Have conflict resolution practices in place
  • Recognize and celebrate employees' wins

TIP: An easy way to promote improving mental health is to encourage your team to use their vacation days, sick days, and take advantage of mental health resources provided. Doing this will help your organization be successful long term.

Plus, there’s stress outside of work to consider. Money is the number one cause of stress for Canadians. And the top two expenses are housing and transportation. So having tools and resources to better manage these costs will make a big difference for your team.

A simple, yet effective, way to help employees is by providing meaningful discounts that will help them to live better lives. Sonnet’s group insurance program helps employees save time and money with an all-digital insurance experience. Plus, it’s free for employers to join. Offering a discount on home and auto insurance is a huge benefit for those struggling financially. Employers are the hero and employees have one less thing to worry about!

4. What are the benefits of prioritizing employee well-being?

Creating an environment that promotes mental well-being benefits everyone. Not only does it help individual team members, but it also improves the overall morale of the company. In short, reducing mental stress will help everyone’s productivity.

Here are some positive outcomes of addressing and improving employee mental health:

  • more productive
  • healthy team relationships
  • reduced sick days
  • reduced turnover

Organizations that put people and purpose over processes are more likely to create trust and loyalty within their teams. Creative solutions such as flexible work hours, remote working, and holistic wellness initiatives are just a few ways that employers can adapt to the changing work landscape.

Did you know? Simple things like having natural light and desk plants can increase creativity and reduce stress. Brighten your team’s day by sending them a house plant! Here are some additional ways that your employees can reduce stress and improve their health in their workspace.

At the end of the day, employers can only control what happens at work, but they can provide tools and resources to help employees take charge of their well-being. Being open and inclusive towards mental health in the workplace will set the tone of your team. And by directly addressing it, colleagues will feel happier, more confident, and more productive.

Our top advice for employers is to take some time to get to know your team outside of daily tasks. This simple gesture goes a long way, and your team will be better because of it.

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