Today is World Mental Health Day, so here’s a mental health fact: more than 18% of American adults – about 43.7 million Americans – has some sort of mental, behavioral or emotional disorder. That means that if you employ just five people, one of your employees might well have some sort of mental illness.
This isn’t necessarily just a personal problem, though. A 2015 American Psychological Association survey found that while Americans reported being more stressed than ever before, the two causes for their stress have remained the same since 2007: money and work. In fact, nearly two-thirds of respondents said work was one of their main sources of stress.
Put another way: work is contributing to some people’s mental health problems. That is the bad news. The good news is that, with just a few small changes, you can help provide a positive environment that gets the best out of your employees without stigmatizing anyone’s illness, all while making sure they get the support they need to thrive.
Mental Health America have helpfully pulled together ten easy ways to make sure your workplace is as healthy as possible for your employees’ health.
1. Have a productive atmosphere.
This means the workplace itself is clean and well-lit, but it also means employees don’t feel bullied, harassed or fearful of talking to higher-ups about problems.
2. Provide a livable wage.
If your employees aren’t getting paid enough to survive, those problems will follow them everywhere – including your business.
3. Accommodate employees’ needs, to a reasonable extent.
A more diverse workforce makes a company more productive. If you’re willing to shift a physical space, provide specially adapted equipment or even allow an employee to structure their own schedule to suit their physical or mental needs, the rewards will vastly outstrip any inconveniences.
4. Provide health insurance that encourages healthy lifestyles.
Get a plan that has programs to encourage people to stop smoking, to exercise more and to eat better. After all, healthier people tend to feel less stressed than their less healthy counterparts.
5. Have open communication.
Openly communicate between managers and employees. Transparency helps employees feel more invested in the company, which makes them feel more positive about their work.
6. Hold employees to account.
Expect employees to support each other and come to work with a positive attitude. Some won’t be able to from time to time, but if others support them, then the whole team continues to thrive.
7. Hold management to account.
Employees should be able to call out management when it is failing them. If this process needs to be anonymous to make employees feel safer in coming out with complaints, then do that.
8. Encourage a work/life balance.
That means leaving work on time. No emails or calls during the weekends and evenings. It even means flexible working arrangements so employees don’t have to choose between the work that pays the bills and the personal life that helps them recharge.
9. Have clear and positive company values.
Try to take your mission statement and turn it into a single sentence, or a bullet point list. Get your employees to help. Then clearly and consistently stick to those values.
10. Get fit.
You can do this in lots of ways: gym memberships, a space for doing short bursts of exercise at work, joining a corporate sports league or even volunteering to do some physical labor in your community. Make it easy for your employees to stay physically fit, and it will improve their mental health.
These steps may be tricky to implement, and it may make you feel uncomfortable to be so upfront about mental health, but the alternative – the status quo – won’t make your business stronger or more productive. In fact, the opposite is true. Mental illness among employees costs US businesses $80-$100 billion in indirect costs. The 2013 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index estimated that businesses lose $23 billion annually, just because of absenteeism caused by diagnosed depression.
Tackling the causes of mental illness in the workplace clearly aren’t just going to give you more satisfied workers; it’s going to give you more productive, happier ones, too.