Article content excerpted from a recent Families for Depression Awareness’ workshop, “Supporting Ourselves While Supporting Others.”
In 2017, one employee’s need for a mental health day went viral. Madalyn Parker emailed her boss and expressed that she needed to use her sick time for a mental health day. Her boss, Ben Congleton responded, “I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this. Every time you do, I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health – I can’t believe this is not standard practice at all organizations.”
There are very real ways that employers and workplaces can send the message that mental wellness is important and should be made a priority. The benefits for employers are an increase in employee loyalty, decrease in employee burnout, which all leads to wasting less resources in hiring and training practices. Valuing mental health in the workplace is a win-win situation. Workplace wellness is especially important for family caregivers who are often also dealing with stress at home.
At Families for Depression Awareness, our mission to “get people well” means that our organizational culture inherently values employee and volunteer wellness. But what about professions outside of the field of human services? Does your workplace buy-in to the value of mental health as a part of your overall wellness? How do you know?
For many workplaces, the first step is simply asking the question: “What is my workplace already doing to support and promote mental health wellness?” If the answer is “nothing” or “not enough,” consider these ideas that other organizations have put into practice.
- Conduct an orientation process that provides an in-depth review of the benefits. Include info about your company’s Employee Assistance Program, if one exists.
- Provide regular supervision to check in with employees not only about their job performance, but ways the organization can better support the employee’s success and mitigate unnecessary stress.
- Create flexible schedules so employees can take care of life outside the office.
- Require basic mental health education and training for all management (and staff when possible).
- Outline in the employee handbook that sick time includes mental health days. Making sure employees are aware of this benefit and utilize it.
- Offer short-term disability coverage for employees who may need to take time off.
- Ensure staff take regular breaks throughout the day or during lunch for self-care and to manage any personal needs.
- Establish structured time for staff to process difficult topics as a result of experiences in the workplace, stories in the news, or tragic events in the community.
- Form connections with community organizations to offer grief counseling or other trauma response as needed.
- Make a plan in case an employee needs to leave suddenly or is unable to come to work. This is especially important for families and caregivers who may need to be available for a loved one in crisis.
Your workplace may check many of these boxes, yet, there are always ways for organizations to refine and expand mechanisms that value wellness. You can be a champion; share the message that mental health matters.
Additional Resources on Promoting Mental Wellness in the Workplace:
- Right Direction
- Partnership for Workplace Mental Health
- Mental Health America
- Learning Organization
- Emotional Intelligence
- Positive Supervision
- Wellness Programs Analysis
- World Health Organization
- Suicide Postvention in the Workplace
- Zentivity: How to Eliminate Chaos, Stress, and Discontent in Your Workplace; by Marianne Clyde (book)
- Work: How to Find Joy and Meaning in Each Hour of the Day; by Thich Nhat Hanh (book)