Every leader worth their salt knows that everything rises and falls on their leadership. If they don’t treat employees well, or if they don’t take the lead in terms of caring for their overall well-being, then the business suffers. Our companies are only as good as the health and success of our employees, and business owners, bosses, or managers need to take the initiative in starting difficult conversations or helping employees manage their mental health.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that building something of value is so much more than just about creating profit. It’s about caring for the people under our tutelage, too. Business leaders play a crucial part in encouraging mental health in the workplace.
Here are some essential pointers for boosting employees’ mental health and wellness in your company:
Meet their urgent and felt needs
We cannot deny all the ways that the global health crisis exacerbated the already difficult mental health crisis the world was experiencing. So many employees are anxious about the idea of returning to the physical office full-time, and rightly so. We are still dealing with a virus that has claimed the lives of 901,000 United States Americans.
If you have employees that are still having second thoughts about returning to work, then speak to them kindly and gently to understand more about their hesitations. If they can do their work from the comfort of their homes, let them. However, if you find that you still need their presence in the office, then make sure to meet their urgent needs for them to find some relief from their anxiety.
For example, if one of your employees is a mother who doesn’t have access to child care while she’s at work, then consider helping her find a safe place where her kid will be cared for while she’s at work. Another example is a workplace that deals with potentially dangerous conditions, like a factory or a laboratory. Assure your employees that you will continue to give them access to personal protective equipment like fire-proof or fire-resistant fabric, hard hats, or medical-grade masks.
Meeting their felt needs and addressing the valid concerns they have will help alleviate their stress, making them more receptive to going back to work and being productive when they get back.
Make mental health and wellness a crucial part of your company culture
Here’s a big mistake that many companies make: They bury the whole concept of mental health in human resources. While almost all organizations in the U.S. offer employee assistance programs, they treat mental health and overall wellness as a human resources issue or initiative.
When it comes to implementing policies that can improve the lives of employees in holistic ways, it takes more than changing some rules or upholding a few policies. It should be imbibed in the entire work culture, and it starts with bosses expressing support and creating a safe space where everyone feels free to be honest about their struggles. If you are a boss or a manager who’s had your fair share of mental health challenges, don’t hesitate to be open about it with your team.
You don’t need to be graphic in your stories or descriptions; just be honest enough for them to know that they’re not alone and that the communication lines in your company are open, and they are free to share about their challenges as well.
Encourage work-life balance
While it’s commendable for people to strive for excellence, we don’t need to create high-quality output at the expense of our health. Employee burnout is a real issue that can cause your people to be absent or to quit completely, so you need to remind everybody that you are not machines—everyone needs time to rest and recharge. Here are some tips to uphold a healthy work-life balance in your company:
- Maintain reasonable working hours for everybody. While working overtime is not something we can eliminate completely, make sure these instances are few and far in between, not the rule.
- Consider switching to a flexible working schedule to allow your people to spend more time with their families or hobbies.
- Be maniacal about your people taking their days off and vacation leaves seriously.
Everyone was negatively impacted by the pandemic—even the ones who seem comfortable and well-adjusted. If you truly want your business to succeed, then you need to care for your employees’ mental health and well-being. Be a good role model and teach them, through your example, what it means to recharge well so that you can be the best employee you can be.