Strategies for Improving Employee Mental Health and Well-being

Mental Health is a tricky subject to address in the workplace, here are some helpful tips to navigate this critical topic.

By Kelly Pallanti, SHRM-SCP, Senior HR Consultant
23rd May, 2024
Kelly Pallanti is a mission-driven HR consultant. She believes that people (humans) are the invaluable driver that advance the mission and values of an organization, and that HR should be there to support them.

Your organization’s success hinges on the well-being of its employees. After all, a healthy, engaged workforce is more productive and supports your goals for a positive workplace culture.

Though employee mental health is critical every day of the year, Mental Health Awareness Month provides an excellent opportunity to take a look at your existing programs and identify the other ways you can support your employees’ mental health.

The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

At any point in time, your employees may be struggling with a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, stress, and burnout. Often, these issues carry over into the workplace, impacting an employee’s work and coworker relationships. According to a 2023 Lyra Health survey, 86% of employees said they experienced at least one mental health challenge over the past year, and 60% said it affected their work.

While circumstances in their non-work lives can affect employees’ mental health, there are also workplace factors that pose a potential risk to their mental well-being. Examples include poor manager communication, unclear job expectations, and an excessive workload. However, by addressing these workplace issues, you can help employees become healthier and happier, resulting in lower absenteeism, fewer disability claims, and higher productivity.

Other benefits include:

  • A high return on investment: According to National Safety Council and University of Chicago research, organizations realize a four-dollar return for every dollar invested in employee mental health support.
  • Increased employee retention: A 2023 study found that employees lacking mental health support were 5.5 times more likely to consider leaving their jobs. Conversely, employees with consistent mental health support were more likely to express no desire to leave.
  • Better alignment with employee expectations: 92% of workers surveyed by the American Psychological Association (APA) said working for an organization that valued their emotional and psychological well-being was essential.

Ways to Boost Employee Mental Well-being

Given the many benefits, it’s critical to create a mentally healthy workplace culture where employees can perform to their potential. While your health insurance plan may include coverage for mental health services, you can support employee mental health in many other ways. They include:

Educate leaders about mental health

Mental health can be a subject many shy away from discussing. However, company leaders and frontline managers can create a supportive culture by removing the stigma and making it OK to talk about mental health. While leaders aren’t expected to be workplace psychologists, they can benefit from training that helps them build skills such as empathy, active listening, and handling tough conversations around mental health. For example, NorthstarPMO offers customized leadership training with a mental health and safety component based on the US Surgeon General's Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-being. You might also consider having key staff take Mental Health First Aid training, which teaches participants how to identify signs of poor mental health and refer individuals for professional intervention.

Develop supportive policies and workplace mental health initiatives

There are several ways to express ongoing support for your employees’ mental health. During Mental Health Awareness Month, you can share employee mental health resources, such as links to helpful articles, podcasts, and videos. You can also invite mental health experts to discuss topics such as burnout prevention and stress management in the workplace. One-on-ones, team meetings, and all-hands gatherings are great forums for keeping the mental health conversation going and helping employees feel supported and heard. Other ways to demonstrate your support for employee mental health include:

  • Developing employee policies that address mental health accommodations and paid leave policies
  • Surveying employees about the mental health support they believe would help them be more productive at work.
  • Adopting an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Offering wellness benefits and perks such as work flexibility, wellness app subscriptions, and yoga classes

Utilize employee mental health resources

The pandemic was a crucial turning point for increasing the focus on employee mental health. Employees across just about every industry and job level sought mental health services to help them manage stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. As a result, employees and employers now have more access to and awareness of helpful mental health resources.

Here are a few of the resources that can help you better understand and support your employees’ mental health needs:

Measure your progress

You can fully understand the impact of your actions to support employee mental health through ongoing monitoring. A great way to get started is to establish a workplace mental health baseline with the help of employee surveys or an internal audit. From there, you can utilize people analytics to track key performance indicators, such as:

  • Changes in absenteeism
  • Turnover rates
  • Year-over-year insurance and disability claim rates

Boost Employee Mental Health in Your Workplace

The mental well-being of your employees is an essential component of their overall work experience. However, given the myriad resources and tools available, creating an employee health and well-being program that matches your culture and budget can be challenging.

NorthstarPMO can help! Members of our team are Workplace Mental Health Ally-certified and knowledgeable about the best practices that yield a healthy and productive workforce. We offer a range of HR and people operations services to help organizations build robust employee well-being programs, including policy design, training, and flexible, part-time HR support. Our experience allows us to easily navigate and leverage tools and updates from organizations such as the CDC, Mental Health America, and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). As a result, you have the benefit of an in-house HR team minus the headcount and infrastructure costs.

To learn more, contact us for an initial conversation.