Mental health in the workplace is one of the most pressing and complex issues that HR leaders are dealing with every day. Recent research conducted by an international law firm highlighted the sheer prevalence of mental health issues in Australian workplaces and in most organizations, this responsibility falls to the HR department. The study also found that more than 80 percent of HR professionals spend one-quarter of their time managing staff with mental health issues. Anxiety and depression (both 94 percent) are the most common, but the above-mentioned study also noted that 44 percent of survey respondents reported suicide or an attempted suicide in their workplace in the past two years.
There are five key domains that must be addressed in order to optimize mental health and wellbeing outcomes in the workplace. In organizations which proactively address and improve these five domains, have seen that mental health and wellbeing-related issues can be reduced significantly, including job insecurity by 29 per cent, bullying by 24 per cent, work-related insomnia and lack of flexible working arrangements by 22 per cent and discrimination by 17 percent. By addressing these domains, employers can support all employees and proactively mitigate potential mental health and wellbeing risks, while supporting individuals who are experiencing mental health conditions. The domains are as follows:
Supporting the Leadership Position Holders
One of the most important factors is cultivating positive leadership within organizations which helps in achieving mentally healthy workplaces. Leaders who understand the need to evolve and update their mental health and wellbeing practices post the Royal Commission will lead the way for innovative workplaces where employees can thrive. According to a study, people who are optimistic that mental health and wellbeing in their workplace will improve in the foreseeable future, rank leadership in their organization twice as favorably as people who are not optimistic. There are four ways HR can help develop positive leadership within their organizations:
- Understand, explore and leverage team members’ strengths
- Understand people’s growth and development goals
- Rewards and recognition
- Set performance, job-related goals and provide feedback
Communication with the employees
Positive, high-quality and humanitarian connections are essential to maintain positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. These connections will act as the fabric of teamwork and collaboration. Having a shared vision and knowing how employees’ roles fit into the organizational framework can unite people, creating purpose and meaningful work. Trust, fairness and social inclusiveness are all fostered where positive humanitarian connections occur. There are four elements to consider in improving connectedness in the workplace:
- Foster high-quality connections
- Notice and harness people who are ‘positive energizers’
- Create spaces to connect
- Create platforms for dialogue
Identifying what employees needs
In order for a company to effectively deliver its mental health strategy, it needs to identify existing policies, programs, supports, and practices, and then clarify what improvements are called for. The next step is to review and analyze existing data and research so that gaps and weaknesses in the workplace mental health strategy can be clarified. Organizations should pay close attention to:
- Absenteeism rates and reports
- Bullying and sexual harassment reports and claims
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Stress claims
- Peer support program use and trends
- Turnover rates Exit interview data
- Measurements of workplace productivity
- Self-reported substance abuse
- Drug/alcohol-related incidents
- Employee performance review feedback
- Staff survey results
Another vital way that a company can gauge the quality and efficacy of its mental health strategy is by consulting with staff and the associated partners to identify key issues and seek feedback on the existing approach.
Employees help define an organization’s culture and values. Organizations which promotes and support mental health and wellbeing also motivate employees to improve their skills and workplace engagement. A recent research in 2018 said that 19 percent of people can successfully overcome most challenges they face if they are highly engaged at work and do not feel bored. The report further says that 18 percent of employees believe their talents, skills, and competencies are employed well in their work.
While many employers have clear policies in place and offer positive employee benefits such as confidential counseling and employee assistance programs, an organization should also ensure that the team managers or leads are given the time and the training to help prevent workplace mental health issues occurring in the first place. A key focus for employers should be creating job designs that enable employees to bring their best self to work. Incorporating a good mental health policy, strategy or action can provide a clear structure in the workplace when forming decisions.
Monitor, Review, and Improve
An organization can only improve its mental health strategy by monitoring and reviewing its progress. This first step is to make sure:
- The action plan is being implemented appropriately – and sustainably – by the right people
- Everyone in the organization is aware of the mental health strategy, the policies being introduced, the actions taken, and why.
- There is a widespread and up-to-date understanding of how to access information and services that are part of the plan
Employers should then seek feedback from staff on the implementation of the strategy and its effectiveness. This might involve asking the staff if they think the actionable plan has successfully delivered the intended results. The next step is to collect data to compare with the baseline and measure progress against goals. This should lead to a comprehensive review of the strategy and amendments to actions were deemed necessary.
While developing a plan like this may seem lengthy and costly, committing financial, human, and other resources to a workplace mental health strategy really does pay off in the long-term.
How to Implement Mental Wellbeing at Workplace?
Mental wellbeing is now becoming a staple aspect of any modern working environment and therefore it is essential that wellbeing is made a priority when discussing and developing an organization’s company culture. Aside from simply offering health insurance benefits, nutritious food or fitness classes, there are further ways in which employers can promote wellbeing in the workplace. Companies can implement strategies like implementing a ‘quiet zone’ within their workplace or rent a ‘special desk’ at a nearby co-working space. Such places to would be isolated to a point where employees would be able to think in peace but not too far away from colleagues in case they need a quick brainstorming session. It can be extremely beneficial to have that space available, even if the employee just wants to have a quick mindfulness session to re-bounce themselves.
For strategies to work effectively, employers could choose a ‘wellness champion’ team to lead the brigade. Leadership is key when implementing any new workplace scheme or structure. Allowing that responsibility to be taken on by an individual or team rather than an employer will help to create a more natural, inclusive approach to developing a company’s workplace wellness goals. Employers also need to promote wellbeing as a key factor in their company culture. Company culture is more than the personality of a company – it defines the environment in which the team works.
Benefits of sustaining mental peace at workplace
The majority of an employee’s time is spent in the workplace and it is a significant part of an individual’s life. The average adult spends as much as a third of their waking life in work. Personal and professional stress, combined with long working hours and constant multitasking, is making it more difficult for people to find the time to act on wellness in their daily lives. Failing to take time to create a happy and healthy workplace can put employees at risk of absenteeism, high stress levels and a decrease in productivity.
This is where employers can take on the responsibility of promoting workplace wellbeing, and create a workplace wellness program. Workplace wellbeing program can be extremely effective in helping employees look after their mental health and sustain a healthy lifestyle, while also having significant benefits to the organization. Recognizing potential health and wellbeing issues in the workplace, and addressing them before they become a serious problem, is essential. This is why it’s hugely beneficial to create an environment where employees feel confident and secure.
Society today is becoming increasingly more health-conscious. Promoting a culture of wellbeing in the workplace does not only benefit employees when they are at work. It will give employees the incentives, tools, strategies and support to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors both in and out of the office.