Now more than ever, people are becoming more aware of their mental health and are making an active effort to take care of it. The growing destigmatization around mental health continues to cement the fact that mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of, and that people with mental health disorders can lead normal lives.
In the corporate world, more and more companies are taking active steps to help employees take care of their mental well-being. These actions can be seen through increased support for constituents with mental health disorders, normalization of ‘mental health days,’ and even the hiring of mental health motivational speakers as a part of employee engagement programs.
Even small businesses are working actively towards better mental health for their employees—but not everyone knows the right kind of approach. That said, let’s talk about some of the most common things that a lot of business owners tend to forget about mental health and its aspects:
Employees are afraid of the mental health stigma
For most employees that live with mental illnesses, talking about it with their employer is simply out of the question. They are afraid of losing their jobs, being judged by others, or being seen as less productive or efficient because of their condition. Thus, they keep quiet about it. When they need help, they can’t ask for it, which can lead to many damaging effects.
The stigma that surrounds mental health is one of the reasons why it is essential to talk about it in the workplace. Discussing it as a normal part of life helps build a culture that does not fear or judge mental health illnesses, even if they are undiagnosed or untreated. In fact, talking about mental health in the workplace can help encourage employees to seek help when they are unsure of what they are experiencing, which can help improve productivity and increase retention.
Mental illnesses can be just as debilitating as physical ailments
When an employee has the flu, it is acceptable for them to take a sick day. After all, the bad flu can make it feel impossible to get out of bed. So why is it not the same for mental illness?
In most workplace settings, employees are afraid of using mental health as an excuse to miss work. The main reason for this is because mental health is entirely subjective, and they can provide no proof, unlike when they are suffering from something physical. However, that doesn’t mean that mental illnesses can’t be as debilitating as physical ailments.
While people with ‘crippling’ mental conditions can still go to work and lead normal lives, some tend to experience days when they simply cannot go out of bed, much less do anything else. Businesses that want to destigmatize mental health in the workplace must accept that sometimes people with mental conditions simply cannot go to work. They should be allowed to take their sick leave.
People at the top also need to pay attention to their mental health
People at the top tend to hold the biggest burdens of the business. Major decisions and the fate of the business rests in their hands. Consequently, this level of responsibility and stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and unhealthy coping mechanisms to unchecked mental health disorders.
That said, building a positive culture around mental health in the workplace should start at the top. Business owners, managers, and supervisors also need to pay attention to their own mental well-being. In this way, they are more aware of the warning signs of mental health struggles and can take active steps to take care of their own mental health.
Perks are not enough
Pizza Fridays, after-work happy hours, holiday gift boxes, and other employee perks are always nice to have and are a great form of employee engagement. However, these perks should not be a substitute for actual mental health support. Companies should also have reasonable mental health arrangements such as:
- Remote working arrangements for people who want to work from home on certain days
- Stress management programs
- Quiet rooms that allow employees to decompress when they need to
- Regular mental health check-ins
- Free or subsidized clinical screenings
- Health insurance for counseling, therapy, and medication
Businesses can no longer ignore the importance of mental health in the workplace, seeing as poor mental health can lead to low productivity, retention, and bad workplace cultures. The first step that business owners should take is to figure out what they are currently doing wrong, starting with the areas where they lack the most.