World Mental Health Day is October 10, 2022. This day is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health throughout global circles. Here in the U.S., one out of every five American adults has experienced a mental health issue.
Despite this, some people still wonder if providing a mental health program is an action that a company should take. My answer is unambiguous: How can a company not be involved in sponsoring mental-health awareness at work? As leaders in the corporate world, we have a responsibility to help remove the stigma of mental health and support employees in need.
Mental health issues in the workplace can lead to lower productivity and absenteeism. And we haven’t even mentioned the impact that the pandemic has had on people. Employees are the heart and soul of an organization; they’re our colleagues, co-workers and friends. Shouldn’t we want to help? If these are not reasons enough to provide a mental-health program at work, consider this alarming data point from a report done by Headspace Health: Nearly one-third of employees “feel work harms their mental health.”
We can help by offering training and ideas for building resilience, self-leadership and a sense of happiness. This guide from Indeed lays out many reasons and ideas for providing mental health support at work. Proactive companies are hosting mental health programs. For instance, my company has made October our mental health and awareness month, centered around our DNA and culture cornerstones: purpose, beliefs, connection, resilience and personal leadership. In addition, I would like to share some of the successful programs that have worked for us that other leaders might find helpful.
While working fully remote across geographic regions offers many benefits such as enhancing work-life balance, it can change the interactive model unless accounted for. The in-office water cooler chat is no more. But to fill that space, modern-day businesses offer programs so employees can engage, socialize and interact with their fellow co-workers while enjoying the advantages and freedom of working remotely.
Leaders should advocate for healthy habits and routines during the work day such as pausing, reflecting, being mindful and building connections with co-workers. Here are a few program ideas that can help support employees even in remote environments:
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• Opportunities to socialize: Provide employees with a way to informally socialize online as you would in person. Offer a remote environment for your employees to socialize with work colleagues on topics such as books, recipes, current events, etc.
• Weekly recharges: Consider offering recharge sessions that focus on relaxation, tension release, breathing, mediation, visualization and stretching.
• Minutes of silence: Start every meeting with a minute of silence to help attendees land, recharge and gather themselves. Use pausing in silence for co-creation and reflection during meetings; this provides an awareness point for self-empowerment. Silence delivers many benefits for mental well-being and mindfulness, as explained in this story in the Huffington Post by Carolyn Gregoire.
These types of supportive programs and practices can be very helpful in promoting human connection, team socialization and ultimately mental well-being. Mental health programs at work can provide support for a major issue that ambitious, hard-working people often face with their mental health: burnout. But sometimes, a person might have more on their mind and could benefit from individual coaching sessions in a one-on-one fashion. For instance, we offer individual “purpose talks” to help individuals align values and purpose to discuss any obstacles or challenges that need help getting resolved. Supporting personal success can lead to collective success and growth. These are just a few ideas to consider for building mental health at work.
Despite the progress made over the past few years, we’re still not where we need to be with supporting mental health in business. For instance, this story in CNBC by Susan Caminiti on May 10, 2022, indicates that many companies are pulling back on mental health programs. However, the good news is that there are many ways innovative companies can support employee mental health at work. We owe it to ourselves and our employees to offer structured programs to support mental health.
One final thought: I’ve only shared a few possibilities to consider, but remember that you can also get creative along the way. For instance, allowing employees to take time off from work and volunteer for the community service of their choice can be a win-win-win for the employee, company and community. The bottom line is that business leaders need to get proactive and ensure they’re offering the necessary support for employees.