Despite the mental health awareness prevalent today, addressing it at the workplace still remains a taboo for many.

A recent WHO-led study estimates that mental health disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Rather alarming, isn’t it?

Workplace budgets for mental well-being usually concentrate on helping those who are going through an emotional crisis. However, it is just as important to focus on precautionary measures and building a mentally healthy workplace.

Taking preventive measures and investing in positive mental health can impact productivity, company culture, and staff turnover. Here’s how you can do so.

1. Promoting awareness from the top down

Changing previously held perceptions about mental health is a top-down process. It starts with the top management becoming advocates for improving mental health in the company.

  • Have the top executives share their experiences (or from their close ones) in meetings or staff interactions.
  • CEOs of organizations should advocate for mental wellness and promote a culture of acceptance and support. They should seek to normalize the mental health issues and address the stigma surrounding it.
  • The organization should be transparent about their support regarding such issues and work towards projecting vulnerability as a strength.

2. Create an accepting culture

Research suggests that workplace stressors which lead to burnout are a major reason for the declining mental health among employees. While work seems to be a contributing factor to mental illness, implementing the awareness for it would transform the company culture into a supportive one. Here’s what you can do:

  • Set firm boundaries around availability. It might be a simple rule such as not answering work emails on weekends or while on holiday no work is to be done.
  • Encourage mindful breaks. Not only does it provide a reprieve from grueling work hours but it also allows employees to bond together.
  • Start conversations around mental health. It can be some simple steps such as conducting seminars around emotional well-being or simply providing counselors to talk to.

3. Proper support

Almost seven out of ten (69.1%) employees surveyed in a study said that they’d use a confidential mental health helpline provided by their employer while facing any mental health issues.

This shows that employees are now more open to having discussions regarding their mental state. It is now in the hands of the employer to provide the appropriate support and assistance to the workforce in regard to their emotional well-being.

  • One way to do so is to implement an employee assistance program or mental health scheme that will help workers to actively monitor and manage their state of emotional health.
  • Similarly, encourage workers to participate in mental health screening tests. These free and anonymous tests are a great resource to evaluate where your emotional well-being is at.
  • Offer options through which your employees can prioritize their mental health like flexible working hours, work from home, or paid mental well-being days off.
  • Invest in employee engagement software. Causes of disengagement such as burnout, stress or alienation can be indicative of emotional turmoil in employees.

4. Clearer information about support

Once you have established a support system, you have to make it accessible to your workforce. That means that any employee who needs help concerning their mental state should know who to approach for it. Subsequently, the mental health scheme in your organization should be easy to use and easily understood by any employee in the company.

5. Train the managers

Managers are in the perfect position to assist—they have direct day-to-day contact with their team and also have direct contact with top management. Even the most basic of mental health training will equip managers to look out for signs of mental crisis and stress and also to create a supportive and inclusive environment.

study by The Lancet Psychiatry showed that after six months of providing mental health training, the managers’ direct reports had an 18% reduction in work-related sick time off.

Mental health training for managers should largely focus on:

  • An overview of the mental health disorders that employees are most likely to suffer from.
  • Recognizing the signs of poor mental health in employees.
  • The ability to actively listen and have conversations about mental health with their team.
  • A clear understanding of how mental health impacts performance.
  • Having clarity about the role they play in addressing the team’s emotional well-being.
  • Managers must feel supported when it comes to their own mental health, in order to offer the required support to their team members.

Originally published on Big Think.

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