It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had some type of impact on many people’s mental health. On October 10, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized World Mental Health Day, and this year’s theme is “Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality.” The past 18 months have brought forth a number of challenges for almost everyone, and particularly for many frontline workers – including health care workers, teachers, police officers, and firefighters – who have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to help serve their communities. The Centers for Disease Control has reported that burnout, poor mental health, and stress can negatively affect employees in a number of ways, including job performance and productivity, engagement with one’s work, communication with coworkers, and daily functioning. In honor of World Mental Health Day, below are some tips and suggestions for employers to consider in creating a mentally healthy work environment for employees throughout these difficult times and moving forward.
Increase Communication with Employees
It is crucial for employers to stay in touch with their employees and be transparent regarding any changes in their work environment. If possible, try to involve employees and obtain their input on ways to make their work experience better or more manageable. Employers should also be open minded about each employee’s experiences and personal challenges, and try to respond with empathy and support, and where appropriate, encourage them to seek help. Being transparent and increasing communication with employees builds trust with the workforce and shows the organization’s commitment to a culture of caring.
Provide Resources for Support
There may be some cases where employees are unaware of the resources for support available to them. Employers should let employees know of available mental health resources provided and encourage employees to make use of them. This can include offering a list of resources for mental health support or reminding employees of the workplace policy on accommodations, paid sick leave, or other available sources for time off. By regularly providing information about how employees can seek resources to help with their mental health problems, this may help reduce the stigma that is often associated with seeking help. Other ideas for providing resources to support mental health include creating and maintaining a dedicated quiet space or time for relaxation or meditation during the workday.
Offer Flexibility When Available
If remote work or a flexible work schedule is an option for certain workplaces, consider allowing an employee to take that option when possible. Offering flexible work options, such as allowing an employee to work remotely, can likely help lessen the stress of a long commute, traffic, and childcare concerns.
Be Mindful of Employee Privacy Concerns
While we want to encourage employees to take care of their mental health, employers should also keep in mind that employees are entitled to keep their mental health conditions private, and should not solicit information from employees about their mental health conditions except in limited circumstances. California law also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on a disability, which includes perceived disabilities.
Addressing and prioritizing mental health is important to productivity and sustainability for all workplaces. By considering and implementing the suggestions above, employers can help provide employees with a supportive and more mentally healthy work environment.