10 Ways to Promote Mental Health During Mental Health Awareness Month
May brings flowers, warm days, and bright sunshine, unofficially ushering in the start of summer with Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day. However, May also brings awareness of mental and psychological health, something at the top of mind for both employers and employees as we slowly emerge from the global pandemic.
With May serving as Mental Health Awareness Month, this year, we focus on “Together for Mental Health,” an apt theme for 2022.
With mental health now a priority for most employers, how should HR leaders promote their employees’ mental health? Let’s look at 10 ways to bring attention to Mental Health Awareness Month at work.
10 Ways Employers Can Promote Mental Health at Work
When thinking about promoting mental health awareness month at work, many HR and benefits professionals boost their companies’ health plan benefits or their employee assistance programs (EAPs). While both are critical to promoting your employees’ mental health, we thought we’d highlight ten ways that may not be at the top of your list when promoting mental health at work.
1. Provide dedicated care to working caregivers
Working parents and working caregivers of the elderly or disabled face significant mental health challenges, from fatigue to burnout to depression. Juggling personal responsibilities along with work tasks can often feel like “too much.”
According to a recent study, 89 percent of caregivers experienced at least one mental health challenge in 2021, compared to 81 percent of non-caregiving employees. To help these employees, consider adding additional parental leave or paid time off for these caregivers. Offer flexible working schedules, allowing these workers to pick their children up from school or take an elderly relative to the doctor. Create a chat group for these employees so they can connect with other employees in similar situations.
2. Adopt an outcome-based workplace culture
With the shift to flexible work hours and locations, the traditional workday is fading away, according to a recent study by Microsoft. Today, data suggests that Team chats often take place outside of traditional work hours, with more occurring between 8:00 – 9:00 am and 6:00 – 8:00 while Team chats have increased over 200 percent on weekends.
In today’s digital workplaces, employers must adopt a new mindset incorporating asynchronous inputs and outcomes. As such, “[i]dentiyfing clear goals and outcomes will allow employees working asynchronously to focus on the desired results versus when, where, or how the work is done,” according to Harvard Business Review.
3. Ensure clarity of job roles
Another way to reduce stress at work? Ensure job role clarity, helping employees understand their responsibilities while meeting their employers’ expectations – whether they’re working synchronously or asynchronously.
Job role clarity also prevents conflicts and overload for employees, making it clear about what they should achieve and to whom they should report. When HR leaders implement practical solutions to combat workplace stress, job design and work conditions should be at the top of their list.
4. Evaluate employee workloads regularly
It’s no surprise that heavy workloads directly contribute to stress and burnout. In fact, the American Institute of Stress reports that workload is the primary contributor to workplace stress, followed by balancing work and personal life, and then job security.
Interestingly, Human Resources Director, which serves a global audience, found that although 41 percent of employees stated that overwhelming workload was a primary stressor, they found that 31 percent felt stressed because they didn’t have enough work.
Balancing workloads regularly is key to helping your employees reach their full potential while empowering them to reprioritize work when necessary.
5. Respect time away from work
As workplace stress continues to mount, employers should respect employees’ time away from work, whether it’s in the evening or while on vacation. To help control stress levels, employees must get away and recharge.
However, employers should take this a step further. Employers should integrate respecting regular breaks and time away from work into the organization’s culture.
For example, encourage your employees to take their vacation – and not leave it on the table like 55 percent of Americans do. Have your leaders model “time-away” behavior, taking time off themselves.
Here’s another fun idea. Create company holidays. Jeweler Kendra Scott recently made national news by announcing that Mother’s Day is now a company holiday. (yeah Moms!)
And don’t forget to let your employees take company-approved mental health days, reducing employee burnout while increasing employee recognition and retention.
6. Create a psychologically safe environment
Here’s a shocking fact according to Harvard Business Review: Most workplaces are not psychologically safe.
The reason for this? Creating a psychologically safe workplace is challenging as most people – employees and managers included – don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable at work. Because of this, many people will hold back ideas, thoughts, concerns, and questions – hindering communication at all levels.
To make all employees feel comfortable expressing themselves, employers should create an open and accepting culture, keeping bullying and discrimination out of the workplace. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. However, understanding your psychologically safe environment baseline will help you take proactive steps to a safer and more accepting workplace.
7. Encourage open discussions around mental health
Mental health discussions have long been stigmatized, taking a backseat to other open discussions around workplace stress. However, if the global pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that we need to discuss mental health challenges openly and empathetically.
As reported by Corporate Wellness Magazine, more than 36 percent of employees said that their employers openly discussed employee mental health issues in open forums in 2021, up from 20 percent in 2020. To continue battling the stigma of mental health discussions, employers must continue to encourage open and safe conversations around mental health, helping employees to speak up about when they’re struggling at work.
Understanding when and how your employees are struggling helps to open the door to helping them when they most need it.
8. Create a virtual after-school program
Here’s a fun option – and one that your working parents will love. Create a virtual after-school program for your employees’ kids. John Hancock recently launched an after-school initiative, called Get It Done Together.
Soon after this program launched, 1,200 participants across North America joined, focusing on investing, literacy, and healthy and balanced living. Working parents and their kids enjoy both online and offline activities, helping parents better balance work and home.
9. Add mental health to your KPIs
Promote mental health month at work by incorporating mental health and wellness into your organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs). This will not only keep you accountable but will show your employees that you’re taking mental health at work seriously.
Curious about how this will work? Here’s an example from Forbes. This allows HR leaders the opportunity to tailor mental health KPIs to their industry, their organization, and their employees’ specific needs.
10. Create policies and procedures addressing mental health
When prioritizing mental health at work, don’t forget to create organizational policies and procedures. For example, the American Psychological Association recently suggested launching a cross-departmental benefits committee to review mental health benefits, such as EAP offerings and parental leave.
Another way to promote Mental Health Awareness Month at work through policies and procedures? Create a learning and development program for both managers and employees, helping them to proactively identify mental health issues and how such issues impact employees with varying identities and backgrounds.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month at work this year, prioritize making mental health resources more accessible and acceptable at your organization. Learn how Cangrade can support you today.