Mental health is something that shouldn't be taken lightly. The conversation has become more candid, but does it extend to the workplace? Employees with mental health issues often feel the need to check them at the door when they go to work – but they shouldn't have to.
"Most employers believe the health of their employees is critical, but what many may not emphasize is that mental health is a big part of that," said Stacy Engle, EVP of Fierce Communications. "The culture of an organization is a reflection on the mental state of its employees, and this goes beyond what occurs at the office."
In today's culture, it's crucial that employers recognize that mental health is just as critical as physical health when it comes to productivity and effectiveness.
"When we feel overwhelmed, most of us don't perform at our best," said Engle. "This goes beyond feeling busy or having a long to-do list – it's when this busyness crosses a line into true stress that it becomes a real problem."
When this occurs, there's often a lack of focus, an inability to communicate effectively and shortness with colleagues could affect the team's dynamic, Engle added.
Engle provided Business News Daily with some tips that company leaders can use to help overloaded employees. [Suffer from a chronic physical or mental condition? Here's how to manage it in the workplace.]
Taking time off due to physical exhaustion is more accepted than asking for a day to decompress from mental exhaustion, according to Engle.
There should be no shame in employees recognizing when they need a break and asking for one; the alternative is stressed employees with subpar performances.
"The more open the communication, the more likely it is that employees will feel comfortable coming to their managers when an issue arises that they need to address, whether it be outside the office or within it," said Engle. "Ensuring an employee does this early, before the issue becomes bigger, the better off everyone will be."
She added that employees who feel comfortable speaking their mind to their managers tend to be more successful in their role because they can discuss all aspects of the job openly.
Mental health days
Engle noted that one approach to creating a culture of mental health within an organization is the idea of mental health days. These are days off that help employees clear their head however they need to. Whether organizations provide specific mental health days or if they are part of total sick days, it's important to encourage a culture of transparency where employees feel safe disclosing that they're taking a "mental health day."
"Allowing employees to take time off to deal with personal concerns can be personally empowering," Engle told Business News Daily. "Employees who know their employers support them fully leads to higher retention and better company cultures. Providing a day or two to recharge and recognizing the health of the whole person can be incredibly beneficial all around."
Not everyone wants to discuss personal issues at work, nor do their colleagues want to hear about them constantly, but that doesn't mean that team members can't be supportive. If an employee needs to take a few days off to address issues affecting their well-being, co-workers should be sympathetic and avoid judgements.
This chain reaction starts at the top when a team leader shows support or even takes these days themselves. These actions create and foster an environment of kindness and empathy.
"Knowing that your team will have your back when you need it goes far in creating and maintaining a positive team culture," said Engle. "When a team is supportive, there is a sense of belonging that eases anxiety and makes asking for help that much easier."
A healthy culture
Employees love perks. Things like ping-pong tables and free snacks are great, but they don't guarantee that your employees will be happy.
To ensure you are creating a healthy culture, take the time to ask employees what perks would make their life better. Perhaps it's a gym membership, access to online counseling or more flexibility when it comes to hours in the office. The little things can make a huge difference.
"[Co-workers] that enjoy spending time together, whether during lunch or offsite, generally perform better on the job. Having an organization that focuses on the needs of their employees at the office will likely have employees that, in general, deal with things better outside of it," Engle said.
Engle added that this integrated approach is spreading, positively impacting organizations and their employees across the board.
"We believe that in the coming years, looking more holistically at the people who work for you is something that many company leaders will embrace," she said.