By: Vinique Emari, Strength in Structure (SiS) Content Creator
How employers can provide their teams with mental health support, and consequently nurture a more productive and successful organization.
The physical and psychological well-being of the workforce is equally important to company health and success. Federal legislation also requires that employers protect both the mental and physical health of their employees.
For much of my working time in Canada, I’ve felt uncomfortable and unhappy. I left most jobs within a month or two. Some jobs quite frankly caused me so much distress that I’d leave after a matter of weeks. At times I wondered, “Is this truly all Canada has to offer?” “Does adulthood really mean working a miserable job just to make ends meet?”
After a year of jumping from one underwhelming job to another, I finally gained employment with a business that does it right. As a result of their commitment to inclusion, community and supporting mental health, I am finally in an environment where I am happy and desire to stay. Many days I am excited to get to work!
So, here I’ll share with you some of the ways that employers can provide their teams with mental health support, and consequently nurture a more productive and successful organization.
How Employers Can Provide their Teams with Mental Health Support
Promote a Strong Work-Life Balance
Do you ever find yourself responding to a message from your boss or a coworker on your day off? The unfortunate truth is, even if it seems that it’s just a little text here, a quick call there or even an email, this constant correspondence seeps into your day and takes time away from you.
It takes time away from your rest and recharge. It takes time away from your family. It can also cause significant anxiety and stress. It is important that employers respect their employee's time away from work. You show respect by avoiding communication about work outside of work.
Personally, I do not like to receive emails either (but I choose not to respond, some employees may feel pressured to do so). Acceptable communications are urgent and communicate information such as shift schedules or changes. Otherwise, it can wait.
My employers support my work-life balance by insisting that certain things wait until my next shift. They never ask me to come in on my days off (even when I mistakenly take the office keys home with me!)
Set Realistic Deadlines and Workloads
This is in keeping with promoting a strong work-life balance but critical enough to stand alone. Setting realistic deadlines and workloads means employees can meet the stipulated productivity goals during their working hours.
If an employee has to take work home (or log on outside of work hours for those who work from home) YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG. It all comes back to respecting your employees and having consideration for the fact that life involves a lot more than just work. You also jeopardize the quality of work your employees produce when they do not get sufficient rest.
Give More Breaks
You heard me. Give. More. Breaks. Isn’t it interesting that in many workplaces it is common and acceptable to step away for a cigarette as many as 5 times in an eight-hour shift yet it is frowned upon or even outright prohibited to step out for some air or to clear your mind?
My employers give me the freedom to step away for short periods (5-10 minutes) whenever I feel overwhelmed or just need a little fresh air. I have a relationship with my employers such that I won’t abuse the policies set in place to help me.
Some days I don’t take extra breaks because I don’t need to. Some days I take several. And contrary to intuition, the work always gets done and is done properly. I am happy that my employers look out for my best interest and in turn, I am motivated to work diligently.
Feelings of fear and or isolation at work are detrimental to the mental health of employees...
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace ought to be a blog post on its own. This point deserves its own manual. You have hired a number of workers of varying cultural backgrounds, of different races and religions, ages and gender identities. Fantastic! But, Diversity and inclusion don’t stop when you fill a quota.
Do your workers feel properly represented in the workplace? Do they feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves and raising their concerns? It is important to identify and implement strategies to support marginalized groups at work.
Feelings of fear and or isolation at work are detrimental to the mental health of your employees and you have a responsibility to support their mental health at work. This brings me to my final point.
As a result of my employer's commitment to inclusion, community and supporting my mental health, I am finally happy at work.
Ask Your Workers
How do you know whether you are properly supporting the mental health of your employees? You ask them. Making assumptions about your performance as an employer won’t do you any favours. Ask your employees how you can support their mental health at work.
Maybe the staff needs to be trained on inclusive speech. Perhaps parents need paid sick days specific to the illness of a child. Conduct employee surveys so that employees can discuss their needs and concerns and explicitly state how they feel they could be better supported. There should also be the option to contribute anonymously.
Don’t stop there. Follow up with a meeting to discuss the areas of concern that were voiced. It is important to acknowledge that your workers have been heard. Discuss the steps you intend to take in response to their feedback and provide a reasonable timeline of when and how these steps will be implemented.
Routinely follow up with your employees. Provide an outlet for them to evaluate the steps implemented to support their mental health. This could be annual, biannual etc. as per your desired work model.