HR managers often double up as mental health warriors at the workplace. This is especially true now, with people returning to the workplace after two difficult years, only to be greeted by continued business and career uncertainty. Hence, HR professionals need to ensure that workplaces are psychologically safe and supportive spaces for all.
In this article, we will share some tips for HR managers to build mentally healthy workplace.
Consequences of mental health issues at work
In addition to the person’s health, poor mental health at the workplace negatively impacts:
- job performance and productivity,
- involvement in one's work,
- communication with the co-workers, and
- everyday functioning.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a trained psychologist to create a mentally healthy workplace. Here are a few things you can do right away.
Tips for creating a mentally healthy workplace
Destigmatise mental health: The first step is to remove the stigma around discussing mental health. First, educate yourself on mental illnesses by reading credible resources or by speaking to experts. Then, pass on this information to your colleagues through your company newsletter, seminars, and town-halls. The more you talk about mental health openly, the more people will feel comfortable around you.
Offer flexible scheduling and time off: The lack of work-life balance can greatly impact an employee's mental health. Giving people flexible work options when required can help them boost their mental health immensely.
Secondly, speak to your company’s senior leaders about offering ‘mental health leave’ for employees, just as you would offer sick leave to people for physical health issues. This openness can bring about a huge change.
Run a mental health assessment: Partner a mental health expert to develop questionnaires that will help you assess your employees’ mental wellbeing. You can keep the assessment anonymous, as this will make your employees more comfortable with it. Sending people regular mental health assessment questionnaires makes them feel heard and provides management with clear guidance on the areas for improvement.
Of course, it’s important that the assessment exercise also concludes in the logical ‘next steps’, whether it is:
- Tackling elements of work culture (e.g., bullying, groupism, favouritism, etc.) that are hurting people’s motivation or engagement levels,
- Facilitating one-on-one counselling sessions to alleviate distress,
- Assigning a buddy or mentor who can help the distressed person,
- Providing additional assistance (if needed), such as financial support, flexi-timings, or even relocating the person to another project or team
- Following up with the person to gauge their progress over time.
Provide appropriate resources: While you can conduct mental health awareness sessions, it is also important to have experts on standby. Having a qualified wellbeing partner will give you access to a plethora of resources – from webinars and daily content to counselling helplines, training sessions, and others – to help people struggling with their mental health.
Address workplace stress: Chronic workplace stress can increase irritability, fatigue, and other health problems. It is also a huge cost to organisations in terms of absenteeism, insurance claims, high employee turnover, etc. It may be impossible to eliminate job stress. But, as an HR manager, you can:
- Ensure that the workload is fairly distributed
- Organise regular meetups between remotely-based employees to facilitate bonding and collaboration
- Celebrate success together
- Provide accelerated growth opportunities to deserving candidates
- Improve people’s career and financial security
Get leaders to become mental health advocates: It is important that the people at the top set the tone for the people working for them. There is a stereotype that mental health conditions affect only a certain set of people. But, if leaders can talk about their challenges, it busts all those misconceptions and encourages people to talk about their wellbeing more openly.
Run support groups: Support groups comprise employees who come together to discuss a specific issue that affects (or has affected) them personally. It’s a way for participants to get emotional and social support and learn from each other’s experiences. Running support groups on various themes – stress, work-life conflict, sleep problems, etc. – will show employees that they are alone.
There are many ways to create a support group, and you can either organise your own support group or get an expert to run it for you.