Take Care of Your Employees: How to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

December 16, 2018 5 min read
How to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

Many employers think that caring about their employees mental health is none of their business, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The way employees think, feel, and behave impacts every aspect of an employers business and can have an impact on everything from productivity to safety in the workplace. Taking steps to help your employees improve their mental health could be one of the most important steps an employer takes to improve employee well-being.  If you are a data driven company and only care about ROI; this is one of the best investments you will ever make.  Invest in your employees, they will do the rest.

Step #1: Remove the stigma

This isn’t just about providing the tools your employees need to take care of their mental health, it is about allowing them to feel comfortable discussing it.  Make it known that your company is a company who is willing to work through issues with your employees and will be there to support them every step along the way. Don’t be afraid to bring up issues related to mental illness, such as stress, depression, and anxiety. Make it clear everyone struggles to stay mentally healthy sometimes.

Your managers are your eyes, educate them about the signs of mental health problems and train them to respond appropriately. A down to earth, caring conversation between a manager and a team member could be paramount in encouraging a team member to get help.

Step #2:  Stop thinking work/life balance is a buzzword

If you measure your employees value and productivity by the amount of time they spend at the office, you’re doing it wrong. Praising people who arrive early and leave late sends the wrong message (especially when those people probably spend half their day on facebook and youtube). Find ways you can track an employees productivity on metrics other than time.  Let employees have a flexible schedule.  Whether this means allowing employees that are able to, work from home, or allowing employees who need to be in the office pick the hours they want to work.  Being flexible and promoting a better work/life balance isn’t just about following a trend, you will allow your employees to be more effective and efficient (not just “busy” at work) and your employees will be happier, more productive team members.

Step #3: Offer EAP Benefits

First, implement. Second, encourage. Third, insist. Offering EAP benefits to your employees can make a world of difference, but you need to encourage and even insist on them using the benefits.

EAP stands for Employee Assistance Program(s). The programs are sponsored by the company and work to assist employees with numerous mental health issues, whether that be someone going through a divorce or someone experiencing insomnia, there is a wide range of use cases for accessing these benefits. Some of these offerings are so small but might provide the biggest impact to your employees. These programs are confidential and can be used by your employees and their families.

Again, if you are overly concerned about ROI, offering EAP benefits has been shown to improve productivity and reduce absenteeism.

Step #4: Offer your employees a Health Spending Account (HSA) or Wellness Account

Offering an HSA or employee wellness account can allow your employees to take the steps needed to maintain their physical and mental health. Whether they want to use the funds to improve their mental health or they just want to pay for their gym membership, the choice is theirs and that’s what matters. An HSA is a business write off to the employer and a tax-free benefit for the employee. An HSA can be used as a standalone product for your company or you can use an HSA to supplement your existing traditional benefits plan to provide employees access to services that wouldn’t be covered with a traditional benefits plan.

Step #5: Consider looking at Employee-Directed Benefits

There are many options other than your traditional group benefits offering.  Consider implementing a program where your employees dictate what benefits they want, and where they want their benefit dollars going. Create allowances based on your core values, and what your employees value most. Establish a benefits culture that fits with your own unique culture and promote employee health and wellness in the workplace.  You want to attract and retain top talent, is your benefit plan helping you do that? Start here.

In a world where over half a million Canadians can’t work due to a mental illness this is something we need to take seriously. Mental illness and substance abuse issues cause absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased health care costs; these are just a few of the ways mental health issues cost employers money.

If you are a forward thinking company that wants to promote employee health and well-being in the workplace, lets talk.

Written by

Davis started in the insurance industry in 2009. He completed a Bachelor of Business Administration-Marketing at the University of Winnipeg in 2017 and us currently completing a Master of Management Innovation at Queens University.  He obtained his full CAIB designation in 2016, has his LLQP certification in 2018 and is currently working on his CIP designation. Although his everyday function is not primarily as a broker, as he works on sales and marketing strategy, he enjoys the opportunity of applying his insurance and corporate innovation knowledge to find new ways to integrate technologies to innovate and make insurance simple, easy and clear.