Healthy employees are happy employees - and this extends to mental as well as physical health. Added stress over the past year, whether directly due to the pandemic or as a consequence of job uncertainty, has led to an increase in burnout. In order to counteract the stress your employees might be facing, it’s important to ensure your company is taking steps to boost mental health at work. If your budget is stretched, there are plenty of free and easy ways that you can encourage better work/life balance, which leads to healthier, calmer, and more productive employees.
In this article, we look at 5 easy ways to improve employee mental health at work.
1. Respect work/life boundaries
Each employee’s home situation is different. Some people live alone and experience loneliness working from home rather than the office, while others are homeschooling children and caring for pets alongside their job. You might have some senior employees with a designated home office, while more junior staff members are working at the kitchen table with noisy housemates. Now more than ever, it’s key to respect your employees’ work/life boundaries.
Offer opportunities to be social, like quizzes or games, but if they’re outside of typical working hours, ensure that everyone knows they’re optional. Some companies offer ‘optional’ post-work drinks, but in reality, those who choose not to attend are negatively impacted. It’s nice to spend time with your colleagues in real life at the office, but an evening virtual social event means more time sitting in front of a screen.
2. Foster a healthy work culture
If you’re looking to improve employees’ mental health, start from the top. Foster a healthy work culture by encouraging flexibility when needed - especially now when staff might be dealing with unforeseen difficulties, such as mandatory quarantine periods. Be considerate of working parents who might have to balance homeschooling alongside their job - for these people, permission to work in the evenings rather than 9-5 can be a lifesaver.
Implement company-wide mental health initiatives, such as providing workshops related to wellbeing. Mindfulness and yoga are very popular options. Try to encourage employees to attend these sessions as they would any other business meeting - and prove that your company takes their mental health seriously.
3. Encourage open communication
It’s important that employees feel that they can approach senior staff if they’ve got a problem in their personal life. Encouraging open communication is an important step in the right direction. Work stress can weigh heavily on your team’s mental health, and knowing they can go to someone within the company for help can alleviate this anxiety. Consider allocating a go-to person in your company who is available for discreet conversations, and who can help mediate in difficult situations.
Regular feedback is also key so that you can hear from your employees themselves if there’s anything you could be doing to help improve their mental health. Consider check-in meetings between employees and their direct managers, as well as quarterly surveys that paint a broader picture of how employees are doing. Make the survey anonymous, and you’re likely to receive useful insights into how you can improve mental health provisions within your company.
4. Train managers accordingly
Employees can do all they can to improve their mental health, but if they’ve got critical, overbearing managers peering over their shoulders, they’re unlikely to make much progress. In order to improve mental health on a company-wide level, train managers accordingly. Sessions on avoiding micromanagement, for example, can be very beneficial. For employees, it’s not a good feeling to be treated as if you’re still a student. You hired your employees for a reason: trust them! Set KPIs for measuring progress instead of emphasizing long hours, and focus on the bigger picture. Allow your employees to show you what they’re capable of.
It’s also a good idea to train managers to identify the signs of burnout both in themselves and in others so that they can step in if their employees are overworking. In particularly busy periods, employees might be so busy trying to make it to the end of their to-do list that they don’t make time to discuss their overloaded schedule with their manager. In these instances, it’s up to the manager to demonstrate leadership and to sit down with the employees to ensure they’re getting enough rest and relaxation time.
5. Get creative with healthy perks
Finally, get creative with initiatives within your company to encourage good mental health. Make sure that employees are taking care of themselves with the basics, like eating a proper breakfast, taking a lunch break, and getting enough fresh air. Regular reminders can help employees remember that they have permission to go for a 15-minute walk in the middle of the day and that they’re not actually chained to their desks.
Try and be creative - some companies encourage breaks by asking employees to share a photo of themselves outside in the group WhatsApp, to prove they’re enjoying some fresh air. If you’ve got some budget available, consider providing your employees with gift boxes of fruit, simple gym equipment, or discounted subscriptions to physical activities. Other alternatives include weekly mindfulness or stretching classes run by a trained professional, that your team takes part in together.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive: often, just reminding employees to stop work on time, take regular breaks, and get up from their desk once in a while is already helpful. Work-related mental health issues can often stem from poor communication, so ensuring regular check-ins, alongside occasional creative activities, will help ensure your team remains happy and healthy during this difficult period.
Are your employees overburdened? Is their mental health jeopardized by working long hours? Let us help. We can find you temporary or long-term staff that will help your team share the workload. Check here how Adams Multilingual Recruitment can assist you.