Poor mental health can seriously disrupt a person’s ability to cope with day-to-day life, which in turn can have an impact on their relationships, work, and overall quality of life.
The mental health crisis continues to take on many shapes and sizes across the world while greatly impacting the workplace. Employers must recognize the importance of employee mental health while striving to offer employees a wealth of resources to support happier, healthier, and more productive workforces.
According to an Oracle HCM report, 76% of people believe their employer should be doing more to protect their mental health.
There is often a stigma associated with poor mental health. The concern of being stigmatized may prevent employees from seeking help from their employer or other sources of support. Supervisors should always be mindful of this perception as it may be hard to determine that an employee is struggling with their mental health, especially if working remotely.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
An employee’s mental health condition may affect the team and workplace altogether. As a result, it is helpful for a supervisor to understand common mental health conditions and how they may affect the employee as well as their team.
The following are several common mental health conditions:
- Bipolar Disorder
While stress may not constitute a formal diagnosis, it is considered a mental health concern that supervisors should be aware of as it is one of the most prevalent issues employees face. According to Deloitte’s Workplace Burnout Survey, taken by 1000 external full-time US professionals, it was found that 77% of respondents experienced employee burnout at their current job, with more than half citing more than one occurrence. Besides, 70% of professionals feel that their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization, and 21% of respondents say their company does not offer any programs or initiatives to prevent or alleviate burnout. Furthermore, when it comes to the biggest drivers of employee burnout, 29% of respondents mentioned that they consistently work long hours or on weekends, 30% of them experience unrealistic deadlines or high expectations for results and 31% expressed a lack of support or recognition from leadership. These stress factors ( and many more) can lead to decreased employee performance, high error rate and poor quality of work, absenteeism, and high staff turnover.
A supervisor may be able to identify potential issues early before they develop into more serious problems by paying attention to changes in an employee’s behavior.
Below are some of the potential early warning signs of poor mental health:
- Withdrawn at work;
- Decreased productivity;
- Increased absenteeism;
- Inconsistent performance; and/or
- Tendency to overreact to problems.
Recognizing changes to an employee’s typical work habits, behavior, or personality provides an opportunity for the supervisor to explore the issue further with the employee.
Employers can help to shape the dynamic across the organization by encouraging others to speak up about their feelings and emotions, while openly sharing their own personal challenges. As a result, this may foster a culture where employees not only feel heard and valued but feel more comfortable with being transparent about their own struggles with mental health.
When concerned that an employee is displaying signs of poor mental health, it is important for a supervisor to arrange a conversation with the employee before the signs become more serious. As this may be a difficult conversation to have, the following are several suggestions to consider when discussing your concerns:
- Set aside enough time and be present in the conversation by ensuring there are no interruptions.
- Be aware of non-verbal communication such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
- Actively listen by providing a safe space for the employee to discuss their feelings and emotions.
- Be open-minded and mindful of the language used to avoid feelings of judgement and dismissiveness.
- Consider requests for reasonable accommodations such as an extended leave of absence.
- Take notes after the discussion with the employee to promote the feeling of connectivity during the conversation.
- Address next steps by maintaining contact with the employee and determining the best course of action.
- Maintain confidentiality of information provided.
Employers should inform all employees of the resources available to them that may serve as a source of support. This can be done regularly through email communications or periodically such as offering a wellness seminar. The goal is to make employees aware that their wellbeing is a top priority to your organization!
Resources may include:
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which promotes the mental health of an employee by offering services on a confidential basis to employees regarding mental health concerns such as stress, depression, and substance abuse.
- Employee-sponsored health benefits that typically include coverage for mental health.
- Paid time off benefits to encourage employees to take time off as needed for wellness purposes.
Mental health is very individual and can look quite different for each person. Employers play a major role in influencing the behavior of their employees. Encouraging a healthy work-life balance while offering support during times of need will allow employees to feel empowered to take the additional steps to look after their overall wellbeing.