The Unicorn HRO Blog
Mental Health and Wellness within the workplacePosted Monday, November 14, 2016 by Unicorn HRO
Many companies today believe that the health of their employees is of utmost importance. After all, healthier employees are more productive, take less sick days, and tend to cost the company less with regards to health benefits. However, while employers spend a lot of time and resources ensuring their employees’ good physical health; they often overlook their employees’ mental health. With help from Human Resources professionals, employers can learn how to support their employees’ mental well-being.
Why is Employee Mental Health Important?
Historically, the issue of mental health in the workplace has been a forbidden topic, with many employers choosing to not hire workers with a mental health diagnosis. This is due to the stigma and myths associated with workers with mental health conditions, including higher levels of absenteeism and lower productivity. Fortunately, with the protections afforded by federal and state laws prohibiting employment discrimination, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are now required to make reasonable accommodations within the workplace. Despite this, many job candidates and employees continue to be reluctant to disclose their mental health diagnosis for fear of not being hired or losing their employment. This can prevent current employees from seeking and receiving the support that they need, which can result in lower productivity, lost work hours, and possible sick leave. Moreover, terminating an employee due to a mental health diagnosis can lead to him or her seeking legal redress. It is therefore important for employers to destigmatize the issue and work with HR professionals to provide workers with the supports that they need.
What can Employers and HR can do to address Mental Health in the Workplace?
To tackle the problem of mental health in the workplace, employers and HR professionals can initiate open discussions regarding mental health, including creating policies which clearly identify how to support employees with these conditions. HR professionals are positioned perfectly to keep an eye on employees who are experiencing such problems. Similarly, clear policies surrounding mental health in the workplace can encourage employees to speak openly with HR regarding any concerns that they have and any supports that they feel they may need. Making improvements to the company culture by implementing team building exercises can also help employees to work together helping them to build a rapport with one another. Consequently, an employee who is going through a tough time mentally can feel like he has a degree of support and may be more willing to seek support from colleagues if needed.
Proactively addressing issues of mental health within the workplace can help to encourage an open dialogue between employees and managers and create a supportive and non-judgmental environment to work within. These approaches can help to improve all employees’ mental health and wellbeing, not only those with psychiatric disabilities. Employers and HR should always work on an individualcase by case basis with employees when they are experiencing problems, as a “one size fits all” approach might not be the best one to use. For example, some employees may prefer to remain working with reduced or flexible working hours as opposed to taking time off, so as not to further isolate themselves from social supports, thereby worsening mental health issues.
By coming out and talking about the issue of mental health wellness in the workplace, employers and HR professionals can help to provide employees with the support that they need. Employees who feel they are well supported in their job, are more loyal, happy, and productive.