Your Employees are Hurting – How You Can Empower Them to Heal Themselves

If nothing else, the last two years of the pandemic have forced employers to recognize the importance of employee mental health. With 1 in 3 Americans experiencing depression and more having felt some impact on their mental wellness, the ubiquity of mental health problems has begun to reduce their stigma.. 

Either through miseducation or lack of resources, up to 57% of Americans who experience mental illness never receive treatment. This apparent lack of understanding and acknowledgement calls for reimagining how behavioral health professionals provide support, and for how employers foster self-awareness among their employees.

How Can Your Employees Heal Themselves?

It’s essential to help your team by providing a pillar of support that provides employees the stability they need to engage in healing. As a team leader or HR professional, it’s important to set an example from the top, as some (if not most) employees will be reluctant to take advantage of resources if they perceive they’ll be stigmatized for doing so. Sometimes, it can be as simple as implementing small steps throughout the day, to provide a consistent emphasis on the importance of wellness. While we provide some examples below, it’s important to note that the specifics will be different for every workplace and culture — there is no “one size fits all” solution to employees’ stress, depression, and anxiety. You should always receive input from your team, as even this act can help employees; sometimes they just need to feel listed to.

Creating a More Meaningful Break

One seemingly straightforward solution to improving employee mental health is to promote short breaks amongst your team. However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Oftentimes, companies will encourage their employees to take breaks, but fail to provide them with the time and space to meaningfully do so. Offering a break to your employees is no good if they simply need to stay later to make up the work — the break then becomes an additional stressor, counter to its intended purpose.

Instead, simply reduce the amount of time your employees need to log or clock in for. If they are required to log 8 hours, reduce that requirement by a few minutes to create a more meaningful impact. Employees will know best how to use that time — your role as the employer is to help your employees help themselves. And ultimately, a small investment of time on the front end can pay meaningful dividends down the line; depression and anxiety can have significant impacts on productivity. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.”

Get Moving

For jobs that require employees to sit at a desk for long periods of time, encouraging movement and physical activity is imperative. Extensive research has confirmed that there are tremendous psychological benefits to engaging in even modest amounts of exercise. And what’s more, moving in sync with peers can provide a number of mental health benefits. This means that things like office yoga, or low-intensity calisthenics can provide additional benefits beyond the physical exercise itself. And while introducing a new routine might seem strange or new to some people, there is extensive precedent for the effectiveness of these programs. The entire country of Japan has been performing the same 3-minute stretching exercise at the beginning of the day for roughly a century. It has become thoroughly ingrained in their culture, and because of the universal nature of the activity, everyone feels empowered to participate.

Acknowledging Accomplishments

People can feel anxious or overwhelmed at work when they think they’re underperforming or feel underappreciated by their managers. Too often, attention is paid to staff only when a problem arises. All of us make mistakes, but it often feels as if only the mistakes get noticed, and not the scores of positive contributions we make each day. As a team leader, make a point to acknowledge the contributions of your team members, but do so in a way that is meaningful to your employees. As with other techniques for improving employee mental health, a key piece component of a successful plan is ensuring employees feel listened to.

Creating a “Shutdown” Routine and Allowing Employees to Disconnect

With the advent of widespread remote working arrangements, employees are having more difficulty than ever disconnecting from work. After all, when your home and your office are one and the same, it’s very difficult to “leave work at the door.” As a team leader, the temptation to have your employees available on-demand is great.

But ultimately, it’s not sustainable. Responding to messages at all hours will increase burnout amongst your employees. And in this labor market, if you’re unwilling to respect the boundaries of your employees, they can easily switch jobs and find an employer who will.

Much like providing short breaks for employees, instituting mandatory “no email” periods after-hours is a short-term sacrifice that provides long-term benefits. Having relaxed, well-rested employees will yield greater productivity than those who are losing sleep from constantly burning the midnight oil. In some places — much of Europe, for instance — it is actually required by law that companies provide their employees with the “right to disconnect.” European businesses continue to prosper, demonstrating that the world will not end if that lingering email isn’t read until the following morning.

How Can You Help Create a Place of Mental Wellbeing Support?

Mental health isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon There is no single, sweeping solution to reducing the anxiety and depression your employees may be experiencing. The good news is that while the transition to remote work has led to new challenges for employees’ wellness, it has also provided new solutions. Companies like Meru Health are changing the game with innovative approaches to providing mental health support remotely via the internet.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help support your employees during this challenging time, register for our Spotlight on Human Capital on February 23rd.

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

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