How to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

Melina Theodorou
Melina Theodorou

Career and Culture Writer

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Illustration of a group of people having a serious discussion

Mental health has finally taken centre stage in the modern workplace.

Indeed, with one in five people suffering with mental disorders in the US, numerous organisations have begun to re-evaluate their company cultures and the way their corporate models impact the health and wellbeing of their employees and how that, in turn, affects their own operations.

In fact, according to the WHO, depression and anxiety costs the global economy approximately $1 trillion in lost productivity each year.

But beyond the monetary and economic implications of mental disorders, company leaders are also recognising that mental health in the workplace is a determining factor for good team dynamics and inspiring company cultures.

So, how can you introduce mental health practices and promote wellness within your company?

This guide will help you get started.

1. Offer Flexible Work Options

Many workers struggle to balance their personal and professional lives, something which can have a significant impact on their mental health and result in higher stress levels and burnout rates.

As for employees already living with mental health disorders, a lack of flexibility within their work can be even more detrimental to their wellbeing.

Work flexibility can help tackle this issue and help companies upkeep wellness among their teams. Indeed, according to Mind, flexible work arrangements help employees maintain work-life balance, avoid long commutes and rush-hour traffic, and attend medical appointments.

So, by offering flexible schedules, remote work options and half-days, you enable your team to take control over their schedules and fit their work responsibilities around other obligations.

Based on the findings of FlexJobs’ 2019 Super Survey, remote work is the most desired work option among professionals. This should come as no real surprise, as the benefits of working from home are manifold, for employees and employers alike. Not only does this allow for a better work-life balance, but it can also lead to a happier and more productive workforce, which can positively affect a company’s overall performance.

2. Introduce Mental Health Policies

One of the best ways to promote mental health in the workplace is by incorporating it within your company policies.

For starters, antidiscrimination policies are an effective step towards preventing discriminatory behaviour against employees with mental health conditions, and for addressing issues such as bullying or harassment in the workplace head-on. Plus, it will allow you to create a truly welcoming environment where everyone can feel safe.

A great addition to your organisational leave policy would be the right to mental health days and stress leave. As stress and anxiety are increasingly becoming a disconcerting workplace trend, this policy will ensure that workers have the right to take time off without fearing for the repercussions it could have on their job.

As an employer, it’s important to recognise that mental health is just as important as physical health. An excellent way to reinforce this belief is through employee health insurance coverage and employee assistance programmes which will allow struggling staff to receive proper treatment and care.

Workplace stress is on the rise and, for that reason, you need to take the appropriate measures to protect and help your team through your organisational policies.

3. Create a Support System

For employees with mental health conditions, having a support system to fall back on can have a considerable impact on their wellbeing. Depending on your company size and resources, there are plenty of programmes and initiatives you could implement.

For example, you could hire consultants, either internally or externally, to work directly with employees who may need help and support. Alternatively, you could create buddy groups and mentorship programmes which will place employees under the wings of individuals who can empathise and listen to their concerns, be they work-related or not.

It’s important to build a support system that is fitting to your business and that your employees will feel comfortable to use, so a good way to start is by evaluating their needs through their own feedback and input.

4. Evaluate Your Company Culture

Company cultures can make or break employee wellness.

Micromanagement, overworking and competition among staff can lead to unwanted toxic work dynamics that can seriously affect your workforce. In fact, research has found that toxic work environments link to depression and other health conditions.

Taking a closer look at your company’s culture will help you re-evaluate and eliminate certain aspects, which will allow you to build a healthy work environment that prioritises wellness.

Giving your employees autonomy to carry out their tasks without overwhelming supervision, trusting them with responsibilities, and offering them support when necessary will do wonders for your team. Plus, a company culture that encourages work-life balance and recognises people’s efforts can have a significant impact on the work dynamics and the mental state of your team.

5. Treat Your Team Fairly

Treating your team fairly as an employer means that you understand that different members of your team can thrive under different conditions and circumstances. For example, while some prefer to work alone in quiet spaces, others do their best work in loud and chatty offices.

It’s important to accommodate these different preferences to the best of your abilities, and to allow your team to flourish in environments where they can do their best work.

The important thing is to treat everyone in your team fairly. Otherwise, you run the risk of marginalising some of your employees while leveraging others, which could do little for people’s mental states and overall morale.

6. Organise Health Education Workshops

In order to promote mental wellness in the workplace, you first need to increase awareness and break down certain barriers regarding the topic. Knowledge is power, and mental health is often viewed as taboo, not just within the workplace but society in general, making it an uncomfortable subject to discuss honestly.

The best way to go about this is to educate your staff first. From sensitivity workshops to mental health classes and mindfulness seminars, there are multiple grounds to cover, starting with gaining basic knowledge of mental conditions, their implications and how they can affect an individual.

Educational workshops teach employees how to ask appropriate questions, allowing them to approach the subject with more ease. Not only will this create better understanding and trust among your team members but it could also create a better line of communication between employees living with these conditions and those who don’t.

7. Create a Safe and Pleasant Work Environment

Creating a safe work environment for your employees starts by eliminating potential health and safety threats. Knowing that their lives could be in imminent danger due to poor work conditions won’t only affect your employees’ wellbeing but could also seriously impact morale, productivity and engagement among your staff. Keeping your employees safe, then, is essential for their mental health.

Depending on your industry, you need to ensure that your staff are equipped with the right safety equipment and that all safety standards are being met.

A safe workplace should also be a pleasant one. Indeed, your office space can have a real impact on your team, especially if it’s a high-stress environment. After all, your team spends most of their waking hours at the office, so it might be a good idea to give it a little spruce; natural light has been proven to improve wellbeing, while plants can uplift a worker’s mood and reduce stress.

Creating a homey and accommodating space for your employees will allow them to feel at home and will certainly enhance overall wellness.

8. Offer the Right Work Perks

Work perks are important for every employee, and while a foosball table in the lunch room is a cool thing to have, most employees expect their companies to offer more substantial benefits to their staff.

If you’re set on promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace, your company’s perks should also reflect that goal. For example, you could give your employees the chance to attend mindfulness workshops or give them access to gym facilities. You could also offer them healthy lunch options and green office spaces that will help them find calm in the midst of a hectic day.

Overall, your company perks should encourage your team to look after their physical and mental health, both within the realms of the office and beyond it.

9. Check in with Your Team

Good leadership helps companies to build a rapport and trust among their staff, and it allows for greater transparency when it comes to mental health. And checking in with your team allows you to evaluate their engagement with current tasks and act proactively if they need your help and guidance.

Employees often feel unseen by their managers and team leaders, something which can negatively affect their performance and muddle their mental state at work. Being approachable, and showing an interest towards your team, then, allows people to feel heard and seen.

It’s also essential that you don’t just check in with employees that you know might be struggling but rather with every person on your team – as already mentioned, you should treat everyone fairly and with the same compassion.

Recognition is also another important aspect of this, as by recognising people’s achievements and milestones, you are essentially validating their work and helping them stay focused and motivated.

10. Train Staff Managers

When managers and company leaders check in with their staff, they also need to be able to provide support and guidance to those who may be struggling. For that reason, the leadership of an organisation could benefit from relevant trainings that will help them carry out their duties with due diligence.

Managers who are prepared to address mental health problems and discuss openly with their staff can have a great impact on employees, but it’s important that they approach this subject with sensitivity and without overstepping boundaries. Not only will it help employees feel comfortable and seen, but it will also allow managers to become better leaders.

As the dialogue surrounding mental health gains more momentum, companies are finally paying attention to the importance of mental wellness in the workplace.

There is much to be said about the benefits that can be reaped from a happy and mentally healthy workforce. From increased productivity to higher creativity and better engagement, promoting mental health allows staff to prosper and reach their full potential within a safe and compassionate professional environment.

Above all else, it shows employees that their company cares, something which could have a significant impact on their personal lives as well.

What do you think? How else would you promote mental health within the workplace? Join the conversation down below and let us know!