How to Support Employee Mental Health

Key Points about employee mental health in the workplace:

  • Pandemic-related concerns and pre-existing mental health conditions have taken a toll on wellbeing.
  • Mental health conditions aren’t always visible in the workplace, but employees shouldn’t have to hide their struggles.
  • To support your employees, communicate openly, share mental health resources, and create flexible policies.
  • Download our Employee Wellbeing Email Template and Mental Health Resource Packet to easily share this information with your employees. 

How can I help my employees with mental health?

Since the pandemic first began, anxiety and depression rates have been rising steadily. People are stressed about health and safety. Many also haven’t seen friends or family in person for months. As the days get shorter, other concerns like seasonal depression add to the burden many people already feel. Unfortunately, your employees are no exception. To prioritize their mental health, take tangible action in your workplace.

Openly communicate about mental health in the workplace

Mental health can be invisible and many people often struggle in silence. In the workplace, the stigma around mental health may be even more prevalent. Employees can be afraid to talk about their conditions or their challenges. 49% of employees don’t think their manager would even know what to do if they approached them with mental health concerns. 

Mental health conditions are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To receive these accommodations, though, your employees must ask for them. They don’t need to share private medical information – only what they’re comfortable with. But the more they’re willing to share with you, the more you can help them.

That’s why the first step to supporting your employees is to create a comfortable space where mental health is not a taboo. 1 in 5 adults experience some form of mental illness. Openly acknowledging this prevalence shows your employees that you’re aware of the struggles they may face. They may then be more comfortable sharing their concerns with you.

Try creating a space for employees to discuss their experiences and share encouragement. In a remote world, this may be a Slack channel or a group chat. To kick things off, share your own experiences (if you’re willing). You may share a personal story with therapy or medication. Or if you’re taking a mental health day, let your employees know that’s why you’ll be off. If you do it, they’ll feel more comfortable doing the same.

You can also raise awareness in the workplace by working with nonprofit organizations or charities that focus on mental health. Organizing a group donation or volunteer event with your employees is yet another way to positively spotlight mental health and wellbeing.

Identify mental health struggles in the workplace

As common as mental health conditions are, they often aren’t as noticeable as physical injuries. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with common signs of mental health struggles.

There are many mental health conditions, and the same condition may look different in different people. This can make it hard to identify signs and symptoms of someone struggling. However, there does tend to be some overlap, and common signs may include:

  • Feeling tired or low on energy
  • Difficulty focusing or staying still
  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for an extended period of time
  • Trying to harm oneself or making plans to end one’s life
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol 
  • Difficulty perceiving reality
  • Intense changes in personality, behavior, or sleep patterns
  • Significant changes in weight
  • Immense worries that impact one’s daily life
  • Intense fear with no known source, often accompanied by a racing heart or difficulty breathing

Of course, only a licensed medical professional can issue diagnoses. Respecting your employees’ privacy is also important. But there’s nothing wrong with checking in on someone who may be going through a difficult time. This simple act can give them the opening they need to talk about their struggles and connect with the right resources.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact:

Share mental health resources

Various resources can help you and your employees deal with mental health concerns.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

EAPs provide additional services on top of your regular employee benefits. If you have one, your employees can access their services without needing to ask you directly (which may make them uncomfortable). An EAP may provide:

  • Counseling and therapy
  • Wellbeing coaching
  • Crisis intervention
  • Online assessments
  • Additional information

Coping mechanisms and wellbeing

Whether or not someone has a mental health condition, they can benefit from self-care strategies. Share healthy ways to cope with stress or anxiety, like exercising, listening to relaxing music, or writing in a journal. 

You can also share wellbeing initiatives for things like meditation and mindfulness. You might invite an expert in one of these areas to give a webinar to your staff.

Employee mental health is important, and this image outlines self-care strategies to share with them. Our Self-Care Strategies include:Exercising regularlyTake a walk in natureWrite in a journalListen to calming musicMeditateTalk with a friend or family memberTake lunch breaksEat a balanced dietGo to bed earlierUnplug from your phone and social media.

Our Mental Health Resource Packet helps you share links to mental health organizations, crisis numbers, and other important information with your employees.

Additional Resources

Make sure your employees are aware of mental health organizations, hotlines, and resources available outside your business. A non-exhaustive list of organizations with further resources and support includes:

Our Mental Health Resource Packet helps you share links to mental health organizations, crisis numbers, and other important information with your employees.

Create policies that give your employees more flexibility

When your employees struggle with mental health, productivity, absenteeism, and morale can suffer. Employees may need time to prioritize their wellbeing before completing their work responsibilities. 

According to a recent survey, though, 55% of people are afraid to take a mental health day. It may not seem like a valid enough concern for their managers to take seriously. Official and unofficial policies can make this process even easier for them.

You might start by implementing unofficial policies that give employees a break. For example, you might set one day a week where meetings are to be kept to a minimum. 

You can also implement official policies that provide greater flexibility. Maybe you let employees use their earned sick or vacation time to take a mental health day. Maybe you create a flexible work schedule so they can work when they feel most productive.

Working parents may be having a particularly hard time. For ways to support these employees specifically, check out our Back to School: How to Support Working Parents During the COVID-19 Pandemic eBook.

Create a workplace plan for struggling employees

When an employee is struggling, they may need something more personalized than a sweeping policy. Workplace plans help you and your employees set manageable goals for work-related issues. Together, you work towards the employee’s success. 

If an employee expresses interest in developing a workplace plan, ask these 3 questions to get started:

  • How can I help you be successful at work?
  • In what ways will you ensure this workplace plan is successful?
  • How should we approach future issues in a way that works well for you?

These questions will help both of you navigate the process. You can find ways to hold them accountable without adding to their stress. Certain work hours, tasks, or modifications may help them be more successful. 

At the same time, the employee can set tangible goals. If an employee suffers from anxiety, maybe meditation helps them be more productive. They may plan to take fifteen minutes over lunch to meditate before returning to work.

Put the plan into writing and make sure you follow up with each other at regular intervals.

Support Employee Mental Health in the Workplace Year-Round

This year hasn’t been easy, and pre-existing conditions on top of pandemic-related stress can be a lot for anyone to handle. Sharing policies, resources, and common symptoms can help you support employee mental health each year. 

Download our Employee Wellbeing Email Template and Mental Health Resource Packet to easily share links to important organizations, crisis numbers, and other resources with your employees.


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