How to Make Mental Health a Priority at Work

Have you ever lost sleep because of work? Do you have a hard time unplugging from your job? Have you ever feared you’ll be fired, even though you’re doing a good job? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from work-induced anxiety and stress and you are not alone. 

Until recently mental health has been a taboo topic at work, with many fearing if they bring up mental health challenges, they won’t be understood, they will be judged, and could potentially lose their job. According to ADAA, 60% of employees do not talk to their employer about stress, which means you likely have employees that are trying to shield their stress from you. The problem is, if they are not talking about it, then you can’t do anything to change it, which means you could see an uptick in sick days, decline in morale, diminished relationships, and drops in productivity. To avoid these consequences, as a leader you need to evolve your job responsibilities to include mental health management.

Here are 5 ways you help manage mental health challenges as a leader.

  1. Start the conversation. In team and one-on-one meetings, discuss mental health. Ask about stress levels, workloads, and overall how their mental health is at work. When you begin asking about it, you are creating a safe place for employees to share their concerns, which can help you as a leader develop solutions.
  2. Make mental health a priority. Make it clear to your team that managing mental health is a priority and not something you want them to take lightly. Be sure to discuss why mental health management is important to the team and organization as a whole. If you do not make it a priority, employees will be less likely to.
  3. Discourage over-working. Avoid positive recognition for “coming in early or staying late” unless it truly is a random occurrence where an employee went above and beyond. When you stop rewarding long work hours and combine it with making mental health a priority, it signals to employees that they have permission to put their mental health first.
  4. Create email management rules. To truly give employees a break, avoid sending emails outside of work hours or create a policy about email regulation when employees aren’t at work. For example, create a rule that employees are not to check or respond to emails after 7:00 PM or on weekends. Then if someone responds during that time period, have a conversation about the importance of unplugging from work. If your employees are constantly plugged into work outside of work hours they have a higher likelihood of burnout. Email regulation is a simple way to reduce this effect.
  5. Promote Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s). Many organizations offer EAP’s as part of the benefits package but employees are unaware of it. EAP’s are voluntary, work-based programs that offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems or mental health challenges. Check with your benefits department to see if your organization has an EAP and if they do, make a point to share this resource with your team.