11 Ways Can Employers Can Foster Mental Health Resilience

Employers have a broad range of options at their disposal to create a work environment conducive to better mental health for all employees.
By: | June 10, 2019

As mental health concerns and suicide rates rise, it’s time for employers to shift more attention toward mental health.

This means not only providing support to those who are struggling with a mental health issue but also normalizing the conversation in the workplace and developing or enhancing strategies to maintain the well being of all employees.

In its recent Strong Minds at Work report, employee benefits provider Unum outlined 11 ways employers can build a positive mental health culture and create ways to support employees who may struggle.

1) Eliminate the Stigma

Top-down support for mental health is essential for successful efforts. Mental health champions throughout the organization also encourage healthy dialogue. Awareness messages can be communicated through internal corporate platforms like employee newsletters, break room posters or HR web portals.

2) Employee Assistance Programs

EAPs, typically offered in conjunction with health benefit plans, can help employees address a spectrum of issues affecting mental health, from substance abuse to grief to family issues.

3) Emphasize Prevention

No one is immune to stress or mental health.

Major life events such as childbirth and divorce can cause or aggravate mental health conditions to the point of interfering with work. Likewise day-to-day struggles such as finances or relationships. Employers can bring in mental health experts to help employees build resilience and understand how to recognize warning signs in themselves and their coworkers.

Offer benefit plans that support mental health. EAPs are a good first line of defense for many issues but employers should also be cognizant of whether their health benefit plan options offer sufficient access to quality mental health specialists in network.

4) Telemedicine and Mental Health Apps

Telemedicine can make mental health resources more accessible to employees, even those in remote or rural areas. Companies can also incorporate app-based programs into their mental health risk management efforts. Lyra, Happify, Joyable and Daylight target specific mental health needs.

5) Align Policies and Procedures

Removing barriers to disclosure can encourage employees to seek help sooner. This includes protection against discrimination, which is usually a top concern for employees, as well as providing appropriate workplace accommodations.

Ensure managers are aware of all resources offered, including EAPs, and that they maintain confidentiality when an employee discloses information. Educate employees on policies, procedures and proper protocols to increase employee awareness.

6) Offer Financial Education

Financial concerns were the leading cause of stress across all generations, according to Unum. Employers can help by offering financially focused benefits, such as life and disability insurance, retirement savings options and supplemental health benefits. Affordable protection from life’s unexpected curve balls can help employees secure the peace of mind they need to protect against excessive stress and anxiety.

7) Encourage Self-Care

“Self-care” is a trendy term, but it’s really just about taking care of one’s physical and emotional health.

That can include things as basic as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, drinking water and getting exercise. Good time management and work/life balance skills are also important, along with finding ways to recharge. In addition to raising awareness about the importance of self-care, company leaders can talk to managers about modeling good self care for their teams.

8) Confront Presenteeism Proactively

Clearly communicate to your workforce that you expect them to give their best when they are at work. If they are unable to perform their best, employees should stay home when sick or take the occasional mental health day if feeling heavily stressed.

Some employers have created meditation rooms or time-out rooms for employees to take a break and collect their thoughts. Revisit time-off policies. Offering just a few extra days to employees can send a strong message about how seriously you take presenteeism. Articulate clear guidelines that apply to everyone.

9) Use Alternative Work Schedules

Introducing flex time, telecommuting and other remote work options can provide alternative options for employees caring for a sick family member, parents with a sick child at home, or to someone who may be struggling with anxiety. Ensure there are clear guidelines, schedules and reporting structures for employees using alternative work schedules.

This can help reduce mental-health-related presenteeism, and it also signals to employees your company and its leaders are supportive of a healthy work/life balance.

10) Set a Clear Return-to-Work Strategy

An employee out of work due to a hip replacement or cardiovascular issue likely has very clear guidelines about his or her return. But for employees experiencing a mental health issue, those guidelines won’t be quite as clear.

Transitional return-to-work plans can drive successful outcomes, because they allow employees time to rebuild their sense of worth and mental strength. Address any non-clinical triggers the employee may have, like problems with coworkers or a heavy workload, to help them become successful at work again. Recognize that it might take time. An initial return-to-work effort might be unsuccessful. Leave the door open for when they’re truly ready.

11) Teach Managers What to Look for

A major gap identified by Unum’s research, in partnership with the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), is a disconnect between employees’ perception of training and the reality communicated by HR professionals.

Consider specific training modules (or even classroom training) for all managers to help them spot warning signs. They should understand how to approach employees who might be at risk and educate them on what resources are available to help. &

Michelle Kerr is Workers’ Compensation Editor and National Conference Chair for Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].

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