Mental Health in the Workplace in 2019

With over 2.77 billion social media users as of 2019, the workplace looks very different in comparison to the one from 10 or more years ago. According to Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, 40% of adults looked at their phones within five minutes of waking up — with nearly 66% of those under 35 saying they did the same. Most participants said their social media habits interrupted face-to-face conversations with friends and family. Other studies, including one conducted by The Pew Research Center, a US think-tank, found that 25% of American adults were “almost constantly” online.

It follows from these results that such habits must be having a negative effect on the mental health of employees in the workplace. We are all now realizing that the burden of emails, which never stop, and the fact that workers have to constantly be ‘ON’ could have negative effects on their mental health.

Recently, forty CEOs from top companies partnered with the American Heart Association to produce an action plan that would help support the emotional and mental health of employees across a variety of different industries. Beyond combating the stigma currently associated with mental health issues, it would be beneficial for organizations to create a culture that is supportive of the overall mental and emotional health of their staff.

Human Resources teams should help their employees realize that taking some time off for emotional or mental health is not only acceptable, and is, in fact, recommended. Many organizations are now offering extended benefits plans that cover time with a professional therapist or counselor. This is in addition to medication coverage that is available through most extended benefits programs. Overall, more and more organizations are realizing that the cost of losing an employee for a few hours or a few days while they take care of themselves and recharge is far less detrimental than losing an employee entirely to a debilitating mental illness that could have been managed had the employee been encouraged to get treatment earlier.

Such action plans have created a number of ways that organizations can begin to support their employees through mental health struggles. One such way is when employees can see that their leaders are preemptive advocates of building and maintaining their own personal mental health and modeling the way. In every other aspect of most organizations, their leaders and those in the C-Suites are encouraged to lead by example in their business dealings. Positive mental health practices should be no different than any other business tradition and should be equally encouraged and demonstrated by the organization’s leaders.

Additionally, making mental health plans easily accessible is another way that organizations can help to create a culture that encourages employees to take advantage of benefits. By ensuring that the policies and procedures for acquiring mental health help are both discreet and easy to locate, organizations will aid in encouraging the use of relevant and necessary services. When an employee is considering seeking help for their mental health, it shouldn’t be any more difficult than finding a doctor for back pain, or a primary care provider.

Due to the stigma in our society against mental health struggles, it is imperative that organizations do their due diligence in safeguarding the privacy of their employees. As much as we can create a culture that is open and accepting of emotional and mental health, as with any other physical condition, it is also important that we practice discretion as regards the employee in question. If an employee wishes to talk about emotional or mental health difficulties, that is up to them to share that information with their intended audience with being inappropriately pushed by HR. By respecting the personal privacy of employees, we may also be able to foster a culture that promotes the overall mental and emotional health of our entire team of employees.

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