It’s safe to say the pandemic took a toll on our mental wellbeing. From isolation to anxiety to grief, it was a traumatic time for many people. And unfortunately, our mental health can impact our job performance. So much so, leaders are beginning to learn how to support mental health in the workplace.
What used to be a taboo subject is now coming into the mainstream. In fact, the WHO reported a 25% worldwide increase in anxiety and depression in March of 2022. Pair this with 52% of workers saying they're feeling burned out, and one thing's for sure: American workers everywhere are struggling.
That's why employees’ mental health has become one of the most important factors for the growth of a company. When employee quality of life is taken into account, it not only benefits the employee, it can also be good for business. Mental wellness can decrease medical costs, absenteeism, and health care costs while increasing productivity, engagement, and morale.
Here, we’ll take a look at what mental health in the workplace is, how to support mental health in the workplace, and how to talk about mental health at work.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health encompasses our psychological, social, and emotional well-being. Our mental health can dictate how we feel, think, and act. Mental health is not set and is instead fluid, changing throughout our lives in response to biological or external factors. Our brain chemistry, life experiences, and family history of mental illness all have an impact on our mental health.
When someone’s mental health is steady, they’ll likely feel like themselves and be able to socialize, work, and cope with stressors effectively. Poor mental health may result in a withdrawal from others, a lack of interest or joy in activities they once liked, and a feeling of being on edge all the time.
If these feelings persist, it may become a diagnosable mental health disorder. Anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are a few of the most common mental health conditions:
- Anxiety: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is among the most common mental health disorders in the United States. It includes symptoms of persistent worrying, being on edge, intense fear of failure, and constant fear of everyday interactions.
- Depression: Along with anxiety, depression is another common mental health disorder, characterized by feelings of hopelessness, a loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed, sleeping too much or too little, and feeling regularly fatigued.
- OCD: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) involves invasive, intrusive thoughts that repeat throughout the day. These thoughts can cause a lot of harm and irritation in someone’s life.
- Eating disorders: Types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders can be characterized by an unhealthy relationship with food, which threatens emotional and physical health.
Struggles with mental health are very common. Whether it’s a stressful life event, a traumatic situation, or a pre-existing condition, everyone at one time or another may experience a dip in their overall mental health. When these times come, it’s important to remember that there is treatment and help available.
What Is Mental Health in the Workplace?
Employees spend a lot of time at work — whether in-office or remotely. It makes sense, then, to make mental health a priority not just outside of work but also inside the workplace, giving rise to the importance of corporate mental health. Maintaining respect for mental wellness will benefit employees and employers alike.
How Mental Health affects the Workplace
The cost of poor mental health in the workplace can be detrimental to a business. If employees are experiencing mental health disorders, their daily life will be upended — they’ll likely struggle to communicate, be productive, and stay focused on any one task for a long time. They may even miss days of work, suffer from physical ailments, or may even quit. These factors can take a toll on these individuals, your team, and the growth of your company.
Sometimes, employers may feel helpless in the face of a struggling employee. What can you do to help? While it may seem like a challenging road to a solution, there are a variety of steps companies can take to make the workplace a safe place where employees can get the help they need.
5 Ways to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace
Supporting emotional wellness in the workplace can have great benefits for your company. You could be wondering how to improve mental health in the workplace — physical wellness, social connections, and mental health apps are all great ideas.
1. Physical Well-Being
Mental and physical wellness go hand in hand. Mental health can have a large impact on our well-being, resulting in a weakened immune system and frequent illness. Likewise, a lack of exercise and a poor diet can contribute to a declining mental state. Make sure you’re providing options for employees to get exercise during the day.
You could create a fitness group that works out together after work, organize a friendly exercise competition for a month, or even install a gym inside the office. During the day, you could hold yoga sessions or light workouts to keep employees sharp and alert throughout the day. Think about providing healthy lunches during the week — salads, fruits, and other healthy options can all help improve wellness.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are some of the best ways to boost your mental health — find ways to instill the importance of physical wellness in the workplace.
2. Social Connections
Isolation and loneliness can be damaging to someone’s mental health. Create ways for employees to feel like they belong and try to build ways for people to interact throughout the day. Holding group yoga or workout sessions is a great way to get people together while also improving their physical well-being.
When you can, hold meetings to let people know — individually and as a team — how their work is driving results and helping people other than themselves. It’s easy for employees to get caught up in everyday work. Taking some time out of the day to recognize their hard work and show them the bigger picture can help your team put things into perspective.
Other activities such as volunteering are another great way to improve mental health — studies have shown that spending time in service to others creates a sense of meaning and offers stress-reducing effects.
When you build a culture of belonging and acceptance, you can make employees more satisfied with where they’re working, which, in turn, will help your company flourish.
3. Mental Health Education
One of the main barriers to many people achieving good mental health is education — a lot of us simply lack the tools and knowledge needed to make a change. Consider providing tools in your workplace like:
- Well-being coaches: Sometimes, people want to start the path toward well-being and wellness — they’re just lacking adequate resources. A well-being coach can teach people how to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep their mental health in focus.
- Training modules: Many companies have started onboarding training that also includes education about mental health — identifying common issues like imposter syndrome and coping strategies can help employees start off on the right track.
- Apps: There are also a variety of mental health apps that allow employees to take notice of how they’re feeling. Many of these apps are simple yet effective — simply identifying emotions can have far-reaching benefits, like understanding the reasons behind those emotions, better control of our lives, and improved relationships with others.
Providing resources and tools and holding workplace mental health programs can help people uncover what may be troubling them. When they understand their own feelings and emotions better, they may be able to get the help they need and develop strategies to live satisfying lives.
4. Mindfulness and Meditation
The benefits of mindfulness and meditation have become clearer in recent years. When practiced, they significantly decrease anxiety, reduce implicit age and race bias, help treat and prevent depression, and improve cognition. Building a mental health program for employees that includes mindfulness and meditation can have a significant impact on the workplace.
Mindfulness is one of the best ways to improve your mental health. You can try to find ways to bring mindfulness into the workplace — holding daily meditation practices or even creating a separate room for meditation is a great way to emphasize employees’ mental health at work. Your team can also use Terryberry's web and mobile wellness app to track mindfulness metrics and their progress.
5. Build a Positive Working Environment
Building a positive workplace culture is one of the most effective ways for promoting mental health in the workplace. A positive culture is also a great way to grow your company — more than ever, employees are viewing workplace culture as one of the driving factors in the job search. Over three-quarters of job searchers consider company culture before applying somewhere, so developing a positive one is key.
There are a few ways you can start building a positive culture:
- Train management and educate them about the importance of mental health.
- Create guidelines that explain how the office should run with regard to acceptance and respect.
- Create programs with a work-life balance in mind, as well as health insurance options with mental health included.
Figuring out how managers can support employees’ mental health can be challenging — emphasizing physical well-being, social connections, mental health education, meditation, and building a positive work culture can help. Some tools provide comprehensive programs that take all of these wellness aspects into account.
Terryberry offers an organizational wellness platform that allows employees to track their fitness, mood, mindfulness, sleep, and more metrics while also connecting with one another through social feeds.
Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace
One of the biggest obstacles for many people when it comes to mental wellness is the stigma involved — in many families and cultures, being vulnerable is seen as a weakness. In truth, being able to express how you feel and identifying your struggles only makes you a stronger person. In recent years, the importance of mental health has become clear and people all over are finding their own paths to wellness and breaking the stigma involved with mental health.
One of the best paths for people to get the help they need is through honest conversations with others who want the best for them. We’re entering a new era where the workplace can offer that for many people — you can create a space where employees can feel free to discuss how they’re feeling, reduce stress, and find a way toward recovery.
Find times to discuss with your employees why it’s important to focus on mental health and refer them to mental health resources at work.
A business is only as good as its employees — investing in emotional well-being in the workplace is a win-win that helps everyone involved. You’ll find mental health solutions for employers and employees alike.
Support Employee Well-Being with Terryberry
Understanding why mental health is important and knowing how to promote mental health and well-being is essential to running a successful business. To promote wellness, you need to find the right tools that can make your strategies effective.
Terryberry is dedicated to empowering organizations and their employees to live healthy and fulfilling lives. We offer a comprehensive app that allows employees to track fitness, mood, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, and other wellness metrics. Employees can even connect via the platform and motivate each other, creating an effective way to help promote wellness in the workplace. Contact us today to learn more!