Mental health is emotional, psychological, and social well-being. With one-third of your life, an average of 90,000 hours, spent at work throughout our lifetime, it’s important for mental health to be part of HR pros’ and employers’ regular considerations.
Mentally healthy employees want to come to work, act as a team, accomplish goals, and stick around. Which ties your focus on mental health to a positive impact on employee retention.
In honor of World Mental Health Day on October 15, we reached out to experts to hear about the mental health awareness strategies they’ve found success with. Find out how these companies are focusing on mental health to keep employees happier, healthier, and employed longer:
Offer flexible hours and remote work
“When we notice that one of our team members is struggling, we make sure that they have several ways to unwind. First, we encourage flexible hours and working remotely. If you don’t feel well enough to work today — take a day off. If you can work but don’t feel like going to the office – you can work from home, as long as you stay on top of your daily tasks.
Moreover, we have a practice of sabbaticals. If an employee feels like they are nearing a melting point, we encourage them to take a sabbatical. These are usually periods of one month when the employee takes unpaid time off. We’ve tried it before with a few employees (including myself) and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.”
Olga Mykhoparkina, Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty
Talk mental health regularly with your team
“When employees are unhappy or dealing with mental health issues and not getting the support they need, they simply can’t bring their best to work and they aren’t likely to stick around. We’ve found that letting people shift time in order to go to a professional to get the help they need has been invaluable.
We’ve intentionally introduced mental health into monthly crew meetings by being vulnerable about our own struggles. Being vulnerable and expressing empathy gives employees permission to come forward in private and ask for the time they need. And you must keep it confidential at all times.
The results of this have been great. Our employees not only come to work and are much more productive because they are getting the tools they need to live a better life, but we’ve also seen increased loyalty and leadership. We don’t expect everyone to be happy all the time, but healthy, supported employees equate to a healthier, more successful company.”
Taylor Hill, co-founder and CEO at Spark Marketer
Focus on the physical health of employees
“As there is a direct link between physical wellness and mental health, we promote physical health by reimbursing our employees for expenses related to exercise. We also hold regular sports tournaments with cash prizes up for grabs. We encourage everyone to take part in these tourneys by holding them during work hours and featuring all kinds of sports, from badminton and ping-pong to five-a-side soccer and baseball.
More directly, we take the stress out of our employees’ lives by offering full access to several experienced and competent local counselors who we list on our employee resources pages. We pay these counselors directly for their time, but employees’ identities remain anonymous and of course, the content of their counseling sessions stays confidential. Our counselors are fully licensed and can make referrals to other specialists such as psychiatrists and substance abuse specialists, for example.
Last Mental Health Awareness Day, we held a panel discussion. One of our C-suite members talked about his own struggles overcoming social anxiety. He talked about how despite his role, he found it difficult to speak up in meetings, make small talk with other people in the office, and join in with team-building exercises.
He went on to speak about how effective the cognitive behavioral therapy that he had received from one of our listed counselors. By opening up like this, he gave the signal to each and every one of us that we didn’t have to ignore or hide our mental health issues.
Employee retention has soared in the past few years as we’ve introduced these measures. We’ve made progress in creating an accepting, blame-free attitude toward mental health issues at Resume Genius. There is always more to be done of course, but we’ve started on the right track.”
Sam Johns, HR specialist at Resume Genius
Prevent burnout to benefit mental health
“Improving or at least putting an emphasis on maintaining healthy levels of mental health can have a domino effect on other employees. Many emotional/mental health issues in the workplace stem from burnout.
Part of preventing burnout is making sure employees aren’t overworked. Most of the time, depending on the industry, the obligation to work late is simply due to a lack of optimization in terms of processes, and not gauging the strengths and weaknesses of employees and building their role around those. I make a concentrated effort to get to know the employees and how to play to their strengths. This significantly decreases the amount of catch-up we have to play, and hopefully, keeps everybody as mentally healthy as possible.
While you can’t have 100 percent retention, I’m still proud to see my approach working. I haven’t noticed employees leaving on account of being overworked or mentally unhealthy. It can be easy to slip into a mentally unhealthy mindset when your boss doesn’t seem to value your input, so I always try to listen to any feedback and demonstrate the fact that I do care about the growth of employees.”
Matt Edstrom, CMO at GoodLife Home Loans