Over the last few years, we’ve seen major changes in how we view mental health in the workplace. The echos of the Great Resignation continue today as new trends such as “quiet quitting” and “rage applying” grow increasingly popular. This is in part due to the growing awareness and demands around employee well-being. Whereas this is important regarding retention and health, research has also found that happier employees are 13 percent more productive. That’s why today we’re going to look at what you can do in your workplace to help your employees maintain their mental health.
Signs of an Employee Mental Health Crisis
According to the CDC, 1 in 5 Americans will experience some form of mental illness in a given year. So, let’s start by exploring some potential signs that an employee is experiencing or approaching a mental crisis. Learning to recognize symptoms will help you design policies to help.
Here are some signs to watch for:
- Low Energy – When a person struggles with their mental health, it becomes increasingly harder to rest properly or feel rested. As such, their energy levels will decline over time – leaving them exhausted no matter what they do.
- Isolating Behavior – A common symptom of a mental health crisis in the workplace, and everywhere else for that matter, is that a person may feel the need to withdraw from others. They may stop chatting in the breakroom or minimize their contact with others.
- Increased Alcohol or Drug Use – Those suffering a mental crisis often turn to external and unhealthy escapes to relieve the strain. To this end, many turn to drugs, alcohol, or increased tobacco use.
- Unexplained Pains – A mental health crisis does not end in the mind. The emotional pain and strain will eventually cause physical pain – particularly in the joints.
- Lashing Out – If you find that an employee lashes out, especially uncharacteristically, it’s possible they are experiencing mental strain that should be addressed rather than punished.
- Unusual Confusion, Agitation, or Anxiety – Regardless of the type of mental crisis, common symptoms include confusion where the sufferer may forget how to do simple tasks or lose the sense of what they’re doing. The same can be said of agitation and anxiety where the sufferer may become fearful and defensive, seemingly without cause.
Now, let’s take a look at the ways you can address mental health in the workplace.
The Importance of Work-Life Balance
It’s important that employees do not feel their work life is taking over their personal life. So, as employers, we need to recognize and respect that boundary. Let’s take a look at the ways you can do exactly that. For one, respect the boundaries between work and non-work time. Unless it’s explicitly stated as a requirement for a role, do not expect 24/7 availability from your employees. Of course, you can ask them to cover a shift, but they should never feel pressured to say yes. Schedule accordingly to avoid this scenario entirely when possible. To keep employees from feeling that work dictates the rest of their lives, work to make schedules flexible and predictable with increased access to PTO. Workers at least need the feeling of a flexible schedule to maintain a sense of control over their daily lives.
Employees need to know what they do matters. Busy work and unrecognized contributions will quickly demoralize the most diligent of workers, leading to burnout and mental crisis. You have to let them know that they matter in the workplace. As such, a living wage with benefits is an outright necessity. There’s nothing worse than poverty wages to make someone feel trapped. Underpaid employees will eventually find new employers or suffer increased levels of burnout and mental strain. If you’re already offering competitive rates, it’s time to build a culture of gratitude in your workplace. Esteem (i.e. recognition) is the second highest need in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. So, ensure your employees know that their work is appreciated and contributes to the success of your company.
No one wants to be in the same role forever. That is the definition of a dead-end job. Providing opportunities to grow into new roles based on skill and growth gives workers goals to strive for and satisfaction when they attain them. That’s why every workplace needs to offer quality training and mentoring so employees can improve their skills. Along the way, give them a clear pathway to advancing their career. What skills or experience do they need to get that promotion? How can they get those skills? Making the answers to these questions clear provides employees with potential goals that they can take concrete steps to achieve. So, when working towards maintaining mental health in the workplace, remember that you’re working towards fulfilling employees’ basic needs beyond a wage. They need satisfaction, a sense of belonging, room to grow, and healthy boundaries between them and their work.