As the holidays approach, it becomes more and more necessary to focus on the mental health of your employees.
Even under normal circumstances, the holiday season brings about extra stress and more emotions. However, the typical holiday stress coupled with the past few years’ events has placed employees on edge.
How to Recognize When an Employee or Co-Worker is Struggling
While you won’t always know when an employee or co-worker is struggling, there are signs that you can look out for.
According to Mental Health First Aid, if you notice a change in behavior in a colleague shows signs of irritability, fatigue, or absenteeism, it is time to start a conversation with them.
Check in. Use questions like “How are you feeling?” or “Are you doing okay?” or “How is your day going?”. Give your co-worker a chance to open up.
What Managers Can Do to Support Mental Health
However, sometimes mental health struggles aren’t as obvious. That’s when it’s crucial to put workplace structures in place to support the mental health of your employees.
Make Mental Health Training Mandatory for Managers
One of the keys to managing the mental health of your employees is catching problems before they become too difficult for the employee to handle.
As neuropsychologist Jerome Schultz tells the site Understood, “It’s important for managers to be trained to recognize the signs of emotional distress so they can react in a supportive rather than a punitive way. Some employees need people around them to say, ‘Hey, I see you might be feeling stressed. Maybe now is a good time to try some breathing exercises or go take a walk.’”
Offer your employees access to mental health resources. There are many things that employers can do to make sure that employees can take care of their mental health.
For instance, offer access to apps that promote meditation and mindfulness, such as Calm or Headspace.
You can connect with a yoga instructor and negotiate discounted classes for your employees. Or consider creating a quiet room in your office to support employees who need a break.
Encourage hard-working employees to take their vacation time.
There are small steps that you can take throughout your office that will improve the overall well-being of your employees.
Promote Your Mental Health Resources
The mental health support structure you put in place cannot help employees unless they know about them. According to Qualtrics, 46% of employees say their company is not proactively sharing mental health resources.
Don’t expect your employees to search for help. Instead, bring support to them.
Be vulnerable is the top suggestion from Harvard Business Review, and I like it. Managers can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health by sharing their mental health struggles with their employees.
It’s vital that employees feel comfortable admitting they have a problem. When managers show vulnerability, employees are more likely to as well.
Model Healthy Behavior
Going hand in hand with being vulnerable, you will also be well-served if your managers model good behavior. Employees are more likely to take care of their mental health if they see managers doing it.
Encourage management to take part in meditation exercises or to take a vacation.
“Share that you’re taking a walk in the middle of the day, having a therapy appointment, or prioritizing a staycation (and actually turning off email) so that you don’t burn out,” writes Harvard Business Review.
According to WorkHuman, when you embrace positivity, you increase employee mental health and workplace morale.
“When leaders bring empathy, hope, trust, and compassion to their organizations, work becomes a positivity experience instead of one filled with anxiety,” writes WorkHuman.
The side benefit is that you’re less likely to have employee turnover, and employees are more engaged in their work.
Whenever possible, be flexible with your employee hours and work schedules. With all of the outside stressors in people’s lives right now, any flexibility you can offer will be much appreciated. Understand that there’s a lot more going on with employees right now than just work.
The current times are tumultuous, and everyone is struggling. That’s why transparency is so important. As Qualtrics reports, employees are more likely to have mental health declines when they do not receive regular updates from management.
With many people working from home or out of the office more regularly, transparency is more important than ever.
Make Time for Fun and Humor
This one comes from the website Limeade, which says it’s a great way to introduce levity into the workplace.
“Whether it’s playing a game or just connecting over chat, having fun with co-workers increases productivity and builds trust. It also relieves stress by forcing a cognitive shift in how stressors are viewed and creates a positive emotional response. Plus, laughter triggers relaxation, thus reducing stress all on its own,” writes Limeade.
Whether you implement just one or all of these suggestions, taking a step toward protecting your employees’ mental health isn’t just good for the people who work for you, it’s also good for your business.
When employees are mentally healthy, they are happier, more productive, and less likely to search for a new job.
Written by Erika Towne