Building a Healthy Workplace: Implementing Effective Mental Health Initiatives 

One in five U.S. adults (20%) experience some type of mental illness, such as anxiety and depression. And 33% of people feel extreme stress, and 77% say stress impacts their physical health. Some companies implement mental health initiatives in the workplace (e.g., wellness programs) to decrease stress and increase engagement.

Goldman Sachs and Big 4 Accounting Firms KPMG and Ernst & Young are a few major companies implementing mental health initiatives. 

Should you? Read on to learn about workplace initiatives that could help energize your team.

What are the benefits of workplace mental health initiatives?

Workplace mental health training and other initiatives can help your team combat stress and support mental well-being. 

According to WebMD, not all stress is bad—it can even be motivational. But, too much stress can cause wear and tear on your team’s mental and physical health. Stress can cause headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, depression, and weight fluctuations. 

Stress and other mental health issues can lead to burnout, disengagement, and an overall drop in productivity. 

Initiatives that prioritize positive work environments and employee support can help:

Mental health initiatives in the workplace

In the workplace, mental health issues—including stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout—can lead to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates.

Mental health initiatives can make employees feel valued and empowered to perform at their best, which in turn helps your business operations.

Want to create a mental health in the workplace policy? You can start by considering the following initiatives. 

1. Employee assistance programs

An employee assistance program (EAP) typically offers services to employees dealing with personal or work-related issues. 

Services may include: 

  • Counseling
  • Support services
  • Referrals
  • Child or elder care
  • Financial or legal assistance

EAPS are employer-sponsored programs. Employees enrolled in an EAP can enjoy available services for free via phone, video, chat, email, or in-person visits. 

EAPs can help employees work through problems that hurt their work performance and mental health. You can administer an EAP in-house by hiring a professional or outsourcing your program to a company. Some health insurance companies, such as Anthem, offer an EAP.

2. Education

Another mental health initiative is to provide education to managers and employees. 

Mental health education may include: 

  • Mental health training: Training can provide information on how to support team members. 
  • Resources: Resources can include self-help tools, articles, newsletters, and other educational information. For example, the Department of Labor (DOL) provides a webpage with mental health tools and resources.
  • Stress management workshops: You may set employees up with a workshop that provides practical tools to manage stress and improve coping skills. 

3. Wellness program 

Mental and physical health are closely related. You may offer a workplace wellness program to encourage physical and mental health. 

A wellness program may include:

  • Screenings and assessments (e.g., biometric screening)
  • Gym memberships
  • Nutrition education

Wellness programs can reduce your employees’ stress levels, encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and boost overall well-being. 

4. Flexible work arrangements

Another way to increase engagement and prevent burnout is to allow flexible work arrangements. 

Flexible work arrangements include:

  • Remote work
  • Flexible hours
  • Compressed workweeks

Flexible work can reduce employee stress, increase productivity, and boost work-life balance.

5. Paid time off (PTO)

Paid time off (PTO) gives employees time away from work with pay. A general PTO policy lets employees take a personal, sick, or vacation day—the choice is theirs. PTO allows employees to rest and recharge before returning to work. 

Some employers choose to separate paid time off days into separate buckets, such as:

  • Vacation days
  • Sick days
  • Mental health days

Regardless, time away from work—with pay—can encourage employees to prioritize their health and reduce absenteeism. 

How to implement your mental health in the workplace policy

Interested in implementing mental health initiatives in the workplace? Here are a few basic steps to get started:

  1. Consider your options (e.g., EAPs, wellness programs, etc.)
  2. Gather feedback from employees to see what they want
  3. Implement the program in your business
  4. Communicate your new mental health initiative to employees (e.g., add it to your employee handbook)
  5. Analyze the program’s adoption rate (how many employees are participating?)
  6. Regularly gather feedback from employees and modify

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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