Mental health in the workplace has, in recent years, become a priority for employers. Many organizations are fighting the stigmas of mental health through training programs and reasonable adjustments in the workplace, ensuring those struggling with their mental health receive the required support.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 adults in the United States struggle with their mental health. Symptoms of mental health and the numerous struggles people face as a result don’t just affect the lives of individuals; they can also impact the businesses they work for.
Your Responsibility as an Employer
As an employer, you cannot ignore the seriousness of mental health and the impact this can have in the workplace. It is a fact that there are people in your workforce struggling with mental health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that around half of the US workforce suffer from mental health issues.
Just as you would make adjustments for an employee with a physical illness or disability, employers should make reasonable adjustments within the workplace for those with mental health struggles. Below are some of the adjustments you can make.
Flexible Working Hours
For someone struggling with mental health, sometimes the smallest changes can make all the difference for them in managing their symptoms. One of the best reasonable adjustments you can make as an employer is to provide opportunities for flexible working. Whether you allow for later start times, remote working, or part-time options, flexible work opportunities can relieve some of the pressure on struggling employees.
So, whether they need to attend counseling sessions, take time off for medical appointments, book a holiday, or just need to feel more in control of their schedule, allowing for flexible working hours is a reasonable option for employers keen to support their workers.
Create Support Systems
Mental health can be extremely isolating. Most sufferers feel embarrassed to speak up about their struggles out of fear that others might judge them. As Adam Nesenoff, an expert working in mental health recovery at Tikvah Lake Recovery states, “one of the worst effects of suffering from any mental health problem is that it often leaves people feeling alone. This is frequently made worse because there is a tendency to start isolating.” Isolation often causes symptoms to worsen.
Support systems (otherwise known as buddy systems) help employees create connections with their colleagues, find people they can talk to, and feel more comfortable in the workplace. These support systems can be created formally or informally but they are an excellent way to support someone dealing with mental health issues.
Introduce a Phased Return to Work
Sometimes, employees need to request an extended period of time off work so they can receive professional support. As an employer, you should support this as much as possible. Seeking support is a huge step out of a comfort zone for many people and it is something that should be commended.
However, after an extended period of time away from work, many returning employees can feel anxious (whether they struggle with mental health problems or not). So, it can be helpful to introduce a phased return to work. This will help employees to return to their previous duties at a pace that works for them.
You might consider asking them to come in for a few hours or days each week at first and then building up from there. If you are unsure what is best, just speak to the individual and ask them what they would like to do.
Address Discrimination and Fight Stigmas
Unfortunately, there are numerous stigmas surrounding mental health. Sufferers are often faced with questions like, “isn’t it all in your head?” or “things can’t be that bad?” These kinds of responses are unhelpful and, ultimately, damaging to individuals, regularly causing mental health symptoms to worsen.
One of the critical challenges of tackling mental health in the workplace involves confronting the stigmas and the best way to do this is through addressing the discriminations and educating your workforce.
Despite the fact you may feel powerless to support every employee in the way they need, one of the best steps you can take is fighting stigmas. Provide mental health training for your employees, address stigmas head-on and let perpetrators know that such behavior will not be tolerated. Creating an understanding and inclusive work culture can transform the health and happiness of your employees.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure all your employees are cared for and supported in the workplace.
This blog is printed with permission.
About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.