If your organization proclaims to value employees’ health and wellness, but doesn’t have a clear mental health policy, then you need to read this.
I once worked with a midsize organization where two key employees left because of mental health issues. Senior leaders believed they supported their staff’s mental health needs by offering counseling. And yet, they were losing employees who took mental health disability leaves and never returned to work.
There was definitely a disconnect.
After conducting internal research, I shared my findings about what was really going on: the good intentions and policies around staff mental health were not reaching the workforce. In fact, the staff thought the organization wouldn’t let people come back to work after a “stress leave.” They didn’t think they could safely tell someone if they were struggling.
There was more:
- More than 70% of staff worried about their mental health and the stress of workload, but thought taking time off could jeopardize their job.
- None of the staff knew that additional support was available.
In short, the workforce was concerned about psychological, and while senior leadership thought they were addressing this concern, they weren’t properly communicating it. The leaders realized they needed a strategy to share resources with staff and let them know it was okay to ask for help.
This organization is not unique; an Ipsos Reid study in 2012 showed 70% of Canadian workers have psychological health concerns. On average, 1 in 5 employees will experience mental ill health.
There is compelling financial incentive to address mental ill health, because of leaves and work disruptions that can be avoided. But more importantly, developing a strategy in your workplace will reflect your company’s values and the intention to support your staff.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH CULTURE
Learn as much as you can about psychological health and safety. Seek out tools and resources to understand the problem better.
It helps to start considering conflicts and disruptions that occur through a psychological health and safety lens.
2. CREATE POLICY
Develop a written mental health policy that includes clear value statements, aligns with your intention to support staff, and includes detailed processes for dealing with psychological health.
Remember to share information about your policies widely and openly. Be sure your employees know what to do and how to receive support.
Provide training opportunities to improve mental health literacy, reduce stigma and increase the dialogue in your workplace.
4. EMPOWER TEAM MEMBERS
Start talking and sharing; there are others in your workplace who want to help, and by talking about your intentions you invite support.
Enlist interested team members to a committee on mental health. Consider using existing leaders that are part of groups like occupational health committees, unions, or HR committees.
The senior leaders in the organization I mentioned above moved forward with a written mental health policy and education for their workforce. They noticed immediate improvements and an opening up of the dialogue around mental health without stigma.
Focusing on developing a solid mental health policy in your organization can lead to reducing workplace absence, increasing productivity, and even bettering your bottom line. There are no drawbacks. Start today.
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