Are you making your employees’ mental health a priority?
Monday, August 07, 2017
Recently on Twitter, a woman shared an email she received from her CEO after informing him that she would be taking two sick days off work to focus on her mental health. The CEO responded by thanking her for shedding light on the importance of mental healthcare.
The tweet went viral, sparking a wave of praise for the employer's reaction, as well as stirring up a nationwide discussion about the way mental health is handled in the workplace.
When the CEO responds to your out of the office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision. pic.twitter.com/6BvJVCJJFq— madalyn (@madalynrose) June 30, 2017
Stories poured in from people claiming they had tried to take time off work for mental health issues in the past only to be met with resistance from their employers. Instead of support, they were guilt-tripped, asked for a doctor's note, threatened with job termination, etc.
Others said they felt they could not be honest about their mental well-being without getting judged, reprimanded or dismissed. The responses about workplaces weren't all negative though; some raved about how they too were lucky to work for a company concerned about its employees' overall health.
So which side of the fence are you on? Are you making your employees' mental health a priority? And if not, should you start?
According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 1 in 5 U.S. adults (43.4 million overall) has been diagnosed with a mental illness since 2015. With this staggering statistic, one would think there would be a major shift in the way employers handle the overall health of employees.
But last year, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that less than half of U.S. workers believe their company supports employee well-being. This suggests that either companies lack a mental health policy or there's room for improvement in the way it is handled.
Statistics aside, focusing on mental healthcare in the workplace is important for the following reasons:
It builds trust between employer and employees
No matter what underlying demons they may be fighting, people shouldn't have to come to work with a fake smile on their faces because they're concerned about being seen as incapable and unprofessional. Instead, you have the power to create a more accepting culture that will empower them.
Rather than feeling isolated, this will enable employees to disclose their struggles and seek help. They will be able to trust that their employer cares about them rather than worry about facing negative repercussions for being transparent.
It will also provide an incentive to be honest about the real reason they're taking time off work if they decide to take a mental health day.
It increases work productivity and performance
If people do not look after their own health, they cannot work or function properly.
Just as physical ailments affect every part of a person's life, so do mental issues. If your company already provides sick leave, then consider encouraging your employees to use that time off for their mental well-being, if necessary.
It increases employee retention and overall job satisfaction
Showing empathy matters. Keep in mind that when you are empathetic and attentive to the overall well-being of your employees, it's not something taken lightly.
Last year, a survey of 2,000 people conducted by Paychex found that about 53 percent quit their jobs because they didn't feel their employers cared about them. That goes without saying that if people feel cared about by their place of employment, then they will have incentive to remain there rather than look for another job.
The stigma associated with mental illness is reduced
As an employer, you have the power to create an accepting culture in the workplace for your employees. There are several ways you can do this, such as openly talking about the importance of mental healthcare to your employees, incorporating policies and/or programs that promote overall wellness and providing resources to educate employees about mental health.
Workplace violence could be prevented
Lately, there have been constant news reports about workplace shootings. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains that the fourth-leading cause of workplace fatalities in the U.S. is homicide. One recent example of this took place at a San Francisco UPS facility where an employee with a history of mental illness shot and killed three co-workers before committing suicide.
That said, mental instability and violence have been known to go hand-in-hand in certain situations. While not all workplace homicides happen because of someone who is mentally ill, the point is, it can happen.
At the end of the day, can you say there are resources available for struggling employees and policies in place to help prevent any situation like that from unfolding?
Running a successful business is no easy task. There are multiple factors that go into it. Being attentive to the overall well-being of your employees is one of them. If you haven't made the mental health of your employees a priority, now is the time to start.
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