May has, for almost 70 years now, been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. Yet employee mental health continues to be a major – and yet often under-discussed – issue in the United States. According to NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness – 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness every year and mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year.
These are startling figures, but according to the same report less than half of employees feel their employers care about their mental well-being. So the month of May is a great time to show your employees you are not one of those uncaring employers and that you take Mental Health Awareness Month, and the improvement of mental health in the workplace, seriously.
Here are some ideas to get you started
Educate Yourself – and Others – On Employee Mental Health
There are a number of great resources available that will help you learn more about mental health, covering topics like how to screen for it, prevention of serious complications, and ways to get help.
Gather some of these resources and share them with your team. Start a company-wide dialogue about how management or communication practices can be improved to reduce stress and improve communication to improve mental health in the workplace. Make it clear to employees that discussing mental health in the workplace is no longer taboo – as it has often been in the past – and they should not be afraid to talk about it.
Encourage Healthier Lunchtime Habits
Food has a direct impact on the way the human brain works. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, poor lunchtime habits can adversely affect employee motivation, engagement and creativity at work as well as overall employee mental health. But eating well at work is not just about counting calories and avoiding junk food.
A healthy lunchtime is about feeding your brain the right nutrients to optimize its function, and helping your body receive the right energy to get you through the day without feeling excess stress and fatigue. Lunchtime is also about allowing the mind a break in order for it to recharge for the second half of the day.
Employers can help here in a number of different ways. First of all, they can ban eating at desks. Eating at your desk is not only robbing your employees of the chance to get a real break, but it also often leads to overeating, as eating while you still stare at a computer screen is much like when a lot like when you sit in front of the television, and you mindlessly eat popcorn – and then end up eating too much.
Instead, for the sake of their mental and physical health, as well as their productivity, employees should be encouraged to take their full lunch break and for those who don’t wish to go out a place to eat away from their desk should be provided.
Show More Gratitude and Recognition
Being recognized for good work feels amazing. But guess who else is benefitting from the gratitude? The person giving it.
Showing gratitude has a direct effect on our happiness. In fact, some studies have shown that giving praise at work induces higher confidence and drive than being the one to receive it. Showing recognition to a manager, employee, or colleague can be as simple as dropping off a hand-written thank-you note on their desk, and so it is something that you should practice more often and encourage your team to do the same.
Realistically, work-induced stress won’t completely disappear. Instead of trying to get rid of it, which is almost impossible, focus on guiding employees into developing healthy daily routines that enable them to reach their physical and mental wellness goals.