Supporting mental health in the workplace
Supporting mental health in the workplace should be a high priority for employers - after all, happy employees are productive employees. A toxic work environment can destroy morale and affect the bottom line. Commit to ensuring your everyday working culture is as mentally healthy as possible.
Most countries have a law where employers have a duty of care of some degree towards their employees to protect their health, safety, and wellbeing. Mental health falls under this, too. It’s worth protecting employees as the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that in many Western countries, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability. Mental health issues cause 30-40% of chronic sick leave and costs up to 3% of GDP. Not to mention that ensuring your office isn’t toxic is an ethical thing to do.
Let’s look at ways remote employers can start identifying and supporting mental health in the workplace.
Identifying mental health issues in the workplace
Everyone has times when life gets the better of us, whether due to health, family, friends, or our work. Sometimes work can trigger problems that affect our mental health negatively, but a supportive work environment and a fulfilling job can actually affect it positively. Ensuring your remote team feels supported is absolutely paramount. Remote workers face extra challenges that just aren’t there with many in-office roles, including battling mental health issues, so the topic at hand becomes that much more important.
There are plenty of signs to show someone’s mental health is deteriorating, including:
Being more tired than usual
Making more mistakes than normal
Timekeeping can slip
Tempers may be short
Isolating from colleagues, friends and family
Becoming chaotic and demanding attention
Be aware that there are other warning signs that show someone may be experiencing poor mental health in the workplace, such as crying, aggression and inability to make decisions. Everyone expresses their mental health issues in different ways, so it’s important for managers to know their teams. It’s much easier to identify when someone is experiencing challenges with their mental health when you know how they usually are.
Mental health is also classed as a disability in some countries, meaning employers can’t discriminate against someone who has been dealing with poor mental health. Instead, reasonable adjustments can be made. Simple changes to someone’s work and environment can have a big impact. Things such as allowing more rest breaks, reducing the number of days they work, and helping them prioritize and manage their workloads. If you haven’t already, introduce regular one-to-ones between employees and managers to talk about any problems they’re experiencing.
Work might not be the main cause of someone’s stress and anxiety, but it can contribute to the ongoing situation. Helping them bring back control to their workload can have a positive impact on their productivity.
Managing mental health in the workplace
Create a healthy remote work environment from the start and remove the mental health stigma by openly addressing problems. Consider how to promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace such as courses, webinars and encouraging discussion. Other ways you can help are:
Treating mental and physical health issues in the same way
Appoint mental health champions - an employee who takes action to raise awareness of mental health problems amongst staff and challenges mental health stigma
Have the team trained in mental health awareness
Have a clear policy on mental health management
One way to break the status quo is running a mental health session with professionals who educate the team and promote positive mental health at work. Normalize discussions about mental health to show they are considered similar to and taken as seriously as physical issues. Employees are often afraid they will be penalized or shamed for changes in their mental health, so it’s important to reassure your team that there’s nothing to be ashamed of and that you’re ready to support them. It can be even harder as a remote worker to discuss mental health. The team doesn’t have the in-office connection that comes from being in the same place.
There are tools available to support your team and allow them to choose how to manage workplace mental health:
Mental health strategies in the workplace
There are various strategies that can help your team thrive. After taking steps to identify issues, as well as ways to solve them, you can take a step further with more specific approaches. Below is a list of online communities and apps that may be beneficial in creating a supportive work environment, whether remote or on site.
Disclaimer: If you or someone else are feeling unwell, please seek professional medical advice. The list below shows examples of self-help groups and apps available but does not contain recommendations on diagnosing, treating, or curing a mental illness. Doctors are the right people to suggest options to support your needs and requirements.
The online world offers endless spaces for endless topics - including mental health. There are a number of online support groups ranging from specific to general that you may want to get to know in case someone in your team is inquiring about support groups. Remember to always use a disclaimer - a professional in the field is the only person who should recommend ways to cope. Also remember that just because you mentioned a great support group in a conversation to one of your colleagues, it doesn’t mean that this particular group will work for them or that the journey is over.
An online community that supports people who suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, or feel isolated. Members have access to therapists through their Support Network Service.
Search for groups by topic and find the right online support community for you. It facilitates access to support groups from a large number of organizations and you can sign up to future meetings via email.
This is a popular platform where people can organize meetings on almost any topic. Hence, there are support groups for people managing their mental health, too, both online and in-person (when possible). Register and find the best group for you.
There are lots of therapy options these days, including online, in-person, phone, and even apps. Choose from talk, CBT and more. Consider whether you as a business can offer a confidential option for employees to discuss their worries and concerns with a professional as part of your benefits.
What’s up is a free app to help with depression, anxiety, stress, and more. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) to support visitors.
This app helps change how you think, and helps you develop self-awareness and healthy attitudes. It is based on CBT and was developed by two clinical psychologists. Choose from more than 200 activities to help improve your mood.
Connect with an online therapist via text and online chat. The therapists are licensed in a wide range of services and you will be matched with the best therapist for your needs and requirements.
Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to help people manage their thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness can relieve stress and improve mental health. It works by encouraging the practitioner to be present in the moment. Consider introducing group meditation sessions for your remote team. Here are some apps with a mindfulness perspective:
This app brings you into the present moment with gentle sounds of nature. There are daily guided sessions to bring your stress levels down and help you relax.
An all-in-one mindfulness app with programs to help you de-stress, meditate, and even get a good night’s sleep. There are programs created to help manage stress and anxiety levels, along with group meditation sessions.
Sit back and relax to the ambient sounds of nature with this app. Watch stunning videos of different landscapes to find your peace. This app is designed to take you to another space to find peace in the moment. With many of us trapped indoors for so long, it’s a great app for escapism.
No one wants their staff to take time off due to mental health issues nor to see their productivity plummet. But no one wants to see their team suffer either. Support your employees by raising awareness of mental health illness in the workplace , offer them a place to source information and advice on managing mental health, and install policies and strategies on mental health in the workplace to seal the deal.
You don’t have to do everything at once - every bit helps and can make all the difference in the world for your team and your business, especially in a remote setting.