Four Non-Traditional Methods Employers Can Use to Address Mental Health in the Workplace
So, many of us know about traditional ways employers can address mental health in the workplace (health insurance, Employee Assistance Programs, workshops, seminars, etc.). While these are amazing methods employers can use to address their employees’ mental health problems, we at Guide to HR are wondering what more can be done. Millions of Americans suffer from some form of mental health issues, and 62.4% of Americans are serving in the workforce. There is more that can be done, especially since work alone can be the cause of the strain placed on many Americans’ mental health. So what more can be done? Here are our top four non-traditional methods employers can use to address mental health in the workplace.
1. Mental Health Days
As we have already discussed, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In some cases, it may even be more important since it affects our cognition, perception, and behavior. It can also deeply impact our physical health. With that being said, employers should consider offering their employees mental health days just as they would offer sick days.
Mental health days can give employees the chance to replenish their minds and rest without feeling afraid of being punished. Mental health issues have been hidden for far too long due to fear. In fact, many employees are already taking mental health days but are labeling them “family emergencies,” “flu,” “feeling sick,” and more. A study found that 95% of employees who have taken time off from work due to stress named another reason such as an upset stomach or headache,” and less than 30% of employees feel comfortable talking to their managers about their mental health and less than 25% to HR.
Mental health days are by no means a cop-out for employers to address any issues in the workplace that are causing mental strains on their employees. Managers, and HR if the relationship is already there with the employee, should continue open communication to ensure that the employee is not dealing with work-related stress/issues. If an employee is taking a day off due to issues at work, they will only return to the same unspoken issues. This is why it is important for the manager/HR to continue dialogue with the employee to ensure if there is a work issue, that you get to the root of the problem.
2. More Time Off
Remember in school when students took a week to a few months off from working so hard? Why do some Americans feel employees do not need that now that they are adults? Giving employees more time to themselves and with family can relieve any mental burdens.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we do not have to stick to traditions to get work done. Companies managed to come up with innovative ways to complete tasks during the pandemic, and many employees successfully transitioned, so it is possible companies can find ways to give employees more time off.
The average employee works 8 hours a day during the week. That does not include their daily commute, as well as the average recommended hours of sleep (7-9 hours). I think you can see where we are going here. If the average employee works 8 hours, spends a minimum of an hour commuting, and gets the recommended amount of sleep, plus time to eat meals, groom, do house chores, etc, when do they have time for themselves?
Companies such as LinkedIn, Bumble, Hootsuite, Mozilla, and Hotelier Marriott International have already taken action to address this. Some have given their employees a week of paid time off, labeling it “Wellness Week,” while others have given their employees three paid “TakeCare Days Off” on the Fridays before Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July.
Giving employees more time to themselves and with family is definitely a great way to address mental health issues. But of course, this alone is not enough. Plus it is a great recruiting and retention strategy!
3. 4-Day Weeks
Traditionally, non-customer facing/corporate type businesses are open five days a week, but some companies are finding it beneficial to implement 4-day weeks. Places such as New Zealand, Japan, and Iceland have already explored four-day weeks and have had much success. And we are starting to see more US companies looking into and implementing this workweek. Even California was looking into making the workweek hours be 32 and anything over would be considered overtime…although the bill has stalled at this time. You can read more about implementing four-day weeks here.
4. Workplace Environment and Activities
When employees take their breaks, some find themselves inside their car to find peace and quiet. A great way to revamp the workplace, if possible, is to have an area where employees can relax and decompress. So instead of going to a break room to watch TV, perhaps employees can have a space where they can sit in a quiet room where they can read, take in the quiet space, listen to relaxing music, etc. with comfortable chairs. Employers can also create activities for employees to engage in such as nature walks, breathing and stretching exercises, as well as quick meditation sessions.
Need More Help?
There are many nontraditional ways employers can address mental health in the workplace. These are just a few. There are other methods such as virtual therapy one-on-one sessions with a licensed therapist and apps that allow you to text mental health professionals. There are even apps, like Calm, which provide ways for people to take a few moments to themselves. The world is changing, and it is well past time for us to take more action toward addressing mental health issues. What are some ways you and your company are addressing them? If you are not sure, one way to get started is to poll/survey your employees to learn more about what they want. If you need help with this, reach out and we can provide you with some guidance and support.