Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace
Welcome to May, Mental Health Awareness Month! Did you know that it’s estimated that almost 58 million Americans live with a mental illness? These Americans are your family, friends, neighbors – and yes, your employees. But you can create a work environment that encourages good mental health.
How does employee mental health affect companies?
Poor mental health and stress negatively affect employee job performance, productivity, communication, and daily functioning. In addition, employees with mental health issues such as depression have higher overall health care costs than other employees and those in unhealthy workplaces are more likely to leave their jobs. Establishing programs in the workplace that support good mental health can not only save money, but create a happier, stronger, more productive workplace. It’s good for everyone.
How can a workplace promote better mental health?
We spend approximately one-third of our lives at work. Companies have pre-existing communications, programs, and social support networks that make them the ideal place to promote better mental health. In 2022, the Office of the Surgeon General released a report titled Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing. It identifies five “essentials” to protecting the health and well-being of employees, including:
- Protection from Harm. When we think of harm in the workplace, we often think of physical harm – illness or injury. But psychological harm is a risk, too. Every employee has the right to work in a place free from the harm caused by bias, discrimination, bullying, and harassment. As a manager, you play an important role in prioritizing both the physical and psychological safety of your staff.
- Connection and Community. Humans thrive when connected with others. Creating an environment where employees form bonds with one another and the community as a whole, feel included, and work together as a team encourages good mental health.
- Work-Life Harmony. The healthiest employees are those who feel they have a balance between their work and personal lives. Ensuring that your staff have the time and flexibility to attend to their needs and responsibilities (including for rest and relaxation) outside of work creates happier, healthier employees.
- Mattering at Work. People want to know that they matter to those around them, and that their work makes a difference in the lives of others. Show your employees they are respected and cared for by providing a living wage, engaging them in the decision-making process, building a culture of gratitude and recognition, and making sure they know how their work helps the company’s mission.
- Opportunity for Growth. The ability to learn and grow is essential to a sense of well-being. By offering quality training and mentoring, clear paths to advancement, and appropriate feedback, you will develop stronger employees and demonstrate that you value their contributions.
In an increasingly competitive business environment, doesn’t it make sense to keep your best and brightest employees? Creating a space where they feel protected and respected can be the key to protecting their mental health and your bottom line.
 NIMH » Mental Illness (nih.gov)
 Mental Health in the Workplace (cdc.gov)
 MTW 2022 DF Smaller (mhanational.org)
 Office of the Surgeon General - Framework for Workplace Mental Health&Well Being (hhs.gov)