May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The stigma around mental health and treatment has long existed, but fortunately, this is starting to change.
This is good news, but there is more work to do. And sadly, more and more people are experiencing mental health challenges, which many experts have described as a “second pandemic.”
You may have noticed this trend with some of your employees. Mental health issues impact job performance, productivity, employee retention, and overall wellbeing. Up to $44 billion dollars is lost to depression each year, whereas $4 is returned to the economy for every $1 spent caring for people with mental health issues. As a small business leader, you appreciate ROI, and the ROI in caring for mental health issues is abundantly clear.
As a small business leader, what can you do to help employees to address and resolve mental health challenges?
Recognize Your Role and Don’t Overstep
You are a manager, not a therapist. There is a right and a wrong way to address mental health challenges with your employees. As an HR professional, I encourage you to consult with your HR counterparts or outside council. Your job is to build a bridge to resources, rather than being the resource itself.
A recent HBR article offers several opening questions to encourage a healthy, supportive conversation, such as:
“What would be most helpful to you right now?”
“What can I take off your plate?”
“How can I support you without overstepping?”
Many of our clients have helped struggling employees by redesigning their work to accommodate mental health challenges, and even “reskilling” those employees so their work can help encourage mental health wellness.
Foster an Open, Inclusive Culture
As a small business leader, you can also help to foster an open, inclusive, and safe environment that allows employees to bring their whole selves to work. Leading research shows that “feeling authentic and open at work leaders to better performance, engagement, employee retention, and overall wellbeing.”
An opportunity for you to encourage an authentic workplace is to share your own struggles, too. All of us have been impacted by the pandemic. Relaying stories of your own moments of challenge can free others to acknowledge their stresses and mental health challenges.
Provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
A low-cost, high-impact solution to helping employees with a range of needs, including mental health, is providing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
An EAP is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.
Inspiring HR’s preferred EAP partner is eni. For a very affordable price, eni goes beyond traditional EAP services and offers your employees a truly holistic approach to wellbeing. Counseling, Virtual Concierge, Wellness, Health Advocacy, training, e‑Learning, Legal/Financial Tools, Onsite Trauma Response, and SAP, are all wrapped up in one Total Wellbeing EAP.
Caring For Others Begins With Caring For Yourself
As Morra Aarons-Mele writes, “Mental illness is a challenge, but it is not a weakness. Understanding your psyche can be the key to unleashing your strengths—whether it’s using your sensitivity to empathize with clients, your anxiety to be a more thoughtful boss or your need for space to forge new and interesting paths.”
The only way to enjoy life to the fullest and experience all its wonders is if we take care of ourselves, mentally and physically. Times have changed and more and more people are changing their outlook on mental illness. However, we have a long way to go. Supporting your company’s business goals and supporting your employees’ mental health needs are not different outcomes. As you know, culture eats strategy for lunch. By investing in healthy work culture, you are supporting your employees while also addressing the bottom line.
This article does not constitute legal advice. It is strongly suggested that you seek consultation or legal counsel before making decisions about policies.