How to Support Employee Mental Health in the Workplace
By: Nick Shekeryk
Discussions about how to support mental health at work are being redefined across the globe in ways we’ve never seen before. As a result, they’re ultimately launching a new revolution in mental health. Having a healthy and engaged workforce requires employees to prioritize emotional wellness in the workplace. However, employees aren’t only seeking better support for employee mental health in the workplace, they’re demanding better employee mental health benefits.
The need for mental health programs at work is here to stay — and rapidly increasing. It’s up to employers to become better at managing and supporting mental health at work.
Key takeaways on emotional wellness in the workplace:
People with high levels of experience activators have less stress and better well-being, engagement and productivity.
Normalizing topics around employee mental health in the workplace, and being able to identify and assess burnout risk, make it easier for employees to get the organizational support they need before reaching a crisis point.
Assessing employee mental and emotional health with digital tools and communication strategies can help corporate leaders understand how to support mental health at work.
The Limeade Institute conducted research on experience activators, or mindsets that can improve a person’s quality of life. These markers of well-being include resilience, optimism, purpose and emotional regulation. Limeade created an Activator Index Score (AIS) as part of its Well-Being Assessment — and it drew responses from more than 500,000 participants. The research showed that people with high levels of experience activators have less stress and better well-being, engagement and productivity. In fact, 97% of people with a high AIS were engaged at work, compared with 55% with a low AIS.
Capturing these more intangible markers of employee mental health at work may seem daunting. However, it helps us see that traditional corporate wellness programs are simply not working — for both employees and companies. These programs tend to focus on lowering healthcare costs and capturing biometric data such as weight and step counts. However, they fail to consider the impact of emotional wellness in the workplace.
Moreover, the rise of remote or flexible work has rendered traditional wellness assessments that rely on in-person screenings obsolete. Managers should consider flexible, digital self-assessment tools modeled after user-friendly consumer apps. Completing a mental health check-in should be as easy as checking a social media feed. This gives employees and employers the benefit of having more robust and actionable mental health programs at work.
The importance of mental health programs at work
A modern approach to employee mental health requires leaders to be able to identify warning signs — and to know how to address them before they escalate. Limeade research shows that 59% of managers report working more hours since the start of the pandemic. As a result, metrics such as sleep deprivation and increased use of alcohol or other substances have triggered “silent disengagement,” which leads to burnout and declining mental health.
According to Forrester, only 26% of companies have a program for helping “silent sufferers” struggling with anxiety and depression. And only 34% of companies said managers received training on how to identify those silent sufferers. It’s important for managers to be engaged because they’re often the ones who most consistently interact with employees. Encouraging managers and employees to discuss emotional wellness in the workplace removes stigmas around mental health conversations at work.
Normalizing topics around employee mental health in the workplace, and being able to identify and assess burnout risk, make it easier for employees to get the organizational support they need before reaching a crisis point. Additionally, when employees feel like their whole selves are recognized in the workplace, they are more engaged and productive.
How does employee mental health in the workplace impact ROI?
Employees with high levels of experience activators like mindfulness, openness and gratitude are more productive and engaged at work and have lower amounts of stress. That is to say that lower rates of burnout and turnover. It’s clear that companies understand this connection: 83% of participants in a Forrester survey said senior leaders tout the importance of mental wellness in the workplace. However, a much smaller number (23%) say mental health actually factors into decision-making.
To bridge this gap, corporate leaders should prioritize assessing their employees’ mental and emotional health by understanding what factors to measure and how to capture them. Digital tools and compassionate, destigmatizing communication strategies are important parts of the assessment process. Understanding how to support mental health at work is also key for designing modern, accessible and effective well-being programs, which in turn lead to better business and people outcomes.
How to improve mental health at work
It’s important to understand how mental wellness in the workplace affects employees — and how companies can take care of their people. Workplace well-being isn’t just a measure of physical well-being metrics like nutrition, exercise, biometrics and sleep quality. It’s more holistic and includes a focus on mental health in the workplace — especially when you consider the facts:
1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year in the U.S.
For almost 20 years, stress-related issues in the workplace have been on the rise
Whether in good times or stressful periods, it’s always important to focus on being a mental wellness workplace for all employees.
6 strategies for managing and supporting mental health at work
1. Survey employees about mental wellness in the workplace
Many companies implement stress management programs — and that’s a good start. However, using surveys to improve mental health at work builds morale and shows that leadership cares.
2. Help employees reduce — not just manage — stress
Once you’ve identified the main stressors, make it a priority to address employee mental health in the workplace. If flexible hours or telecommuting will help people juggle work and life, get on it. If resources are an issue, staff up, contract out, add budget or shift gears to put some projects on hold.
3. Ensure employees are taking time away from work on a regular basis
While burning the midnight oil seems noble and can net short-term results, it often leads to burnout. Challenge your people to regularly rest, recharge and connect with loved ones to help them stay mentally engaged.
4. Make time for fun and relaxation
Whether it’s playing games or just making time to chat, having fun with coworkers increases productivity and builds trust. It also relieves stress by forcing a cognitive shift in how stressors are viewed and creates a positive emotional response. Plus, laughter triggers relaxation, thus reducing stress all on its own.
5. Keep an eye out for depression
According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, 70% of the workforce suffers from depression — and not all of them are aware of their condition. Nevertheless, only 15% of employers train managers on how to recognize depression and intervene to help with employee care. Managing and supporting mental health at work can save employers $2,000 annually per employee on costs associated with health and productivity. For more information, contact Mental Health America or the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health.
6. Provide support and employee care
Make sure your company provides employee mental health benefits and services — including everything from individual and couples counseling to group therapy. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), for instance, provide access to services that allow employees to reduce stress related to childcare, housecleaning and running errands.
Investing in emotional wellness in the workplace to improve well-being outcomes and company performance
Whether you’re an Olympian, physician, educator or tech worker, advocating for emotional wellness in the workplace is crucial. It’s a key reason HR leaders are marking mental health as a top priority, followed by DEI, leadership development, employee experience and managing remote workers.
Employee mental health benefits that make real improvements
Mental health is your emotional, psychological and social well-being. It can therefore affect every stage of life and impact how you think, feel and act. Employee mental health benefits offer additional support for those suffering from burnout, stress or depression. Employers who provide mental health employee benefits and emphasize awareness of their benefits can help improve mental health at work.
As global management consultant firm McKinsey & Company states, “if companies make mental health services more accessible and intervene in the workplace in ways that improve well-being, they will simultaneously make investments that will provide real improvements in employee outcomes and consequently in company performance.”
Services beyond EAPs and meditation apps can improve mental health at work
As companies continue navigating the hybrid workforce and looking for ways to combat burnout and fatigue, managing and supporting mental health at work has become a top priority for an increasing number of companies.
As a result, mental and emotional well-being strategies should be focused on providing resources to employees, building communities, serving up meaningful content and communicating effectively. EAPs and mental health apps with guided meditation and therapy can help employees cope with stress, anxiety or depression by providing coaching, exercises and education. However, studies have found that “mental health apps are not an equal substitute” for robust healthcare coverage. One of the key challenges that employers face is undervaluing and underpromoting employee mental health benefits. If your organization isn’t trying to improve mental health at work, how will your employees overcome burnout and fatigue?
Prioritize emotional wellness in the workplace to amplify well-being and increase employee utilization
An all-in-one solution like Limeade Well-Being can help promote and increase utilization of mental health employee benefits. Expert guidance from our purpose-driven customer success team will help you reach your goals. There are several ways to increase exposure, access and utilization of benefits and company resources while using Limeade technology.
Make it easy to improve mental health at work
Limeade provides a dedicated location where employees can view, access and utilize all benefits in one place. Limeade Well-Being customers can:
Access health plan information
Schedule virtual visits
Request time off
View retirement plans or stock program information
Limeade enables employees to access and connect with important contacts at a push of a button. Not only does this improve an employee’s ability to connect with the right benefit experts the first time, but it also provides simplified and universal registration instructions to improve benefit utilization.
Shine the spotlight on emotional wellness in the workplace
Limeade Well-Being ensures that key benefits stay relevant and top of mind all year long to encourage employee utilization. It offers a simple way to deliver benefits and educate employees on what’s available. Additionally, customers can leverage interactive content to improve overall awareness and impact of a comprehensive benefits package.
Feature relevant resources to employees throughout the year
Provide interactive content designed for high engagement
Deliver targeted and custom campaigns to tailor your messaging for the right audience
Remove the stigma of discussing employee mental health in the workplace
Managing and supporting mental health at work is important. In fact, only 14% of employees say they get mental health support. Posting videos from company leaders sharing mental health tips or sponsoring activities related to emotional wellness in the workplace can dramatically change the conversation simply by starting it.
Focusing on employee mental health in the workplace is critical to employee care. Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employee job performance, engagement and communication — not to mention business results. Limeade Well-Being can help you transform work into a source of positivity, energy, humanity and purpose.
As employees increasingly seek a sense of purpose in the workplace, managers and leaders have the ability to foster a work environment that makes work meaningful.
About the author
Nick is a Content Marketing Manager at Limeade. He has a professional writing background rich in media and digital marketing with specializations in B2B and B2C content creation and strategy.
Nick takes pride in his ability to connect with readers through engaging and insightful content that tells the story of how Limeade brings positivity, energy, humanity and purpose to work. His mindful approach to exploring various themes impacting the employee experience helps bridge the gap between employees and employers — and aligns with his favorite Limeade purpose: Listen Well, Speak Plainly.
Nick’s work has appeared in The Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Post-Standard and on MSN.com, among other publications. He has a graduate degree in journalism from Syracuse University as well as creative writing and philosophy degrees from Seattle University. In addition to his efforts to support workplace equality as a member of the Black LimeMates Kings and Queens (BLKQ) ERG at Limeade, he advocates for inclusive community outreach as a leader for the public library board of trustees in his hometown of Everett, WA.
Nick also spends his free time playing and coaching baseball, running and attending as many live music events as possible.