American business

Mental Health? It’s a Big Deal for Organizations

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If there has ever been a question of the importance of mental health, it has surely been squashed with the rise of this pandemic and unrest we have been experiencing across our country. In fact, at the moment, we’re seeing an unprecedented surge in mental health issues among our fellow Americans. Don’t believe us? Just look at the numbers. Since March, there has been an 891% increase in calls to the federal crisis line. Further cementing the growing problem, studies have shown that a whopping 45% of us are reporting that we’re struggling with our mental health right now.

This pandemic has been a friend to few. At an individual level, many of us are struggling with the sharp discourse from our everyday lives, feeling both the sting of isolation and a sense of emotional exhaustion as the “new normal” drags on.

But, step back to take that 30,000 foot view, and you will find that this virus is quickly taking our economy to its knees. The volatility of the markets is enough to make any investor’s head spin. However, its current discourse is just a symptom of bigger issues at hand.

Shifting consumer demands are rocking American businesses, while unreliable foreign and domestic supply chains wreak havoc on industries. All the while, stay at home orders, Corona fears, and poor morale among American workers are stunting productivity, often causing steep declines in revenue streams.

In fact, take a closer look and you’ll find that dozens of big businesses are being impacted right now, with industry giants such as 24 Hour Fitness and Advantage Rent A Car filing for bankruptcy over the last couple months. But, what’s really scary is that all of this has a trickle-down effect, as exhausted and already weary individuals lose confidence in industry, further disrupting the markets.

So, it goes without question that leaders across our nation are also struggling at the moment. Truthfully, it would be naive not to recognize that they’re also experiencing the same mental anguish as the rest of us. But, for most, they’re also baring the weight of an organization on their shoulders– grappling with the fiscal health of a company, while also trying to maintain the well-being of their most valuable asset- employees.

Truth be told, it’s long been known that healthy, happy, engaged employees are more productive and provide healthier profit margins for businesses. In fact, high pressure organizations on average spend 50% more on employee healthcare costs. Furthermore, it’s estimated that the American economy loses an unprecedented $550 billion each year as a result of workplace stress.

That being said, it’s the duty of local managers and organizational leaders to identify when those on their team are struggling. If businesses are able to recognize the early signs of floundering mental health in their staff, they can provide the support they need to thrive, whether that be through applying a trauma-sensitive lens to supervision or making needed referrals to company mental health resources.

But, how does one know if an employee is struggling? Below are some of the early warning signs of budding mental health issues in staff.

Lacks motivation for tasks they used to enjoy.
Seems irritable, angry, or upset.
Becomes isolated and withdrawn from the team.
Lacks interest or seems indifferent.
Misses deadlines, has more accidents or procrastinates more.
Seems forgetful or scattered.
Is indecisive or less productive.
Arrives late, seems fatigued or exhausted.
Exhibits a lack of confidence or self-assurance.
Sudden changes in appearance.

Sound familiar? Chances are, especially as of lately, that many of us can recognize these signs in a coworker or someone we supervise. So, if this list does hit close to home, you wouldn’t be alone in that realization. However, organizations have a robust set of tools that they can employ to encourage the well-being of their workforce.

Below you will find a wide variety of options that companies can deploy to encourage positive mental health in their employees.

Increase awareness of mental health issues and of available support.
Talk about mental health regularly – eliminate the stigma around this topic.
Encourage work-life balance.
Create employee support networks.
Provide training in self-care topics.
Ensure policies are in place to support mental health and wellness.
Provide health care that includes support for mental illness.
Develop programs that promote health and wellness.
Value diversity.
Encourage teamwork.
Provide training for employees and managers about mental health in the workplace.
Keep employee data confidential.
Ensure that work is a safe space.
Support employees who need time off to seek treatment or need disability leave.
Be flexible about employee needs and personal situations.
Keep an open-door policy and be clear that you want to help.
Listen without judgment.
Offer incentives through health and wellness programs to encourage healthy behaviors.
Check-in often with those who may need support.
Refer employees to the Employee Assistance Plan or professional services when needed.
Regularly survey employees to understand engagement levels.
Offer clinical screenings at low or no cost.
Include access to lifestyle coaches, counseling, and self-management programs.
Create dedicated space in the workplace for relaxation activities and quiet time.
Provide training on resilience and growth mindset.
Emphasize social connections.
Provide mentors for new hires.
Offer flexible work schedules.

By no means are either of these lists comprehensive. Each individual person and organization are unique. And truthfully, there’s no shortage of information out there that businesses can use in their arsenal to fend off the negative effects of this pandemic on employee health and morale.

So, whether you’re struggling yourself, concerned about a coworker, or are an industry giant looking to ensure a healthy morale in your workforce, we encourage you to take the time to research mental health in the workplace. Each of us has the power to make the difference in the life on an individual and our workplace as a whole.

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