This topic has become quite personal to me in the last two years as I have had 2 children suffering from suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide), and one is in the hospital again. Unfortunately, this crisis is something we all need to learn about and prepare for as it affects every workplace in America.
What is the mental health crisis?
19.86% of adults are experiencing a mental illness. Equivalent to nearly 50 million Americans. 4.91% are experiencing a severe mental illness. (Mental Health America)
Nearly 20% of adults are experiencing a mental illness. The numbers are even more alarming when we look at the youth who are heading into the workforce over the next ten years. Currently, that translates to 1 out of 5 which means that at least one of your employees is most likely suffering, and if they aren't, your employees probably have a family member who is. Even worse is that 55% of adults are considered to be languishing, which means they are not thriving and living their full and happy life.
Why should leaders emphasize wellness at work?
Whether your employee is suffering from mental illness, supporting someone who is, or is simply languishing, their work will be affected. We are not separate people in our personal and professional lives. When we seek to help our employees thrive, they will be more engaged. We will get their best ideas and energy when they are mentally well. We have less turnover when employees are happy. Happy employees make our organizations better. Think of wellness as the gas that fuels your employees' performance.
What are some easy ways to start emphasizing wellness at work?
Try adopting some of these simple strategies.
Respect Personal Time
Don't make it an expectation for people to work during personal time and to put in extra long hours. Respect a set number of expected hours per week. If there is a project or event that requires longer hours, make sure to give employees extra time off later. You set the example by not responding to messages outside of work hours. Most work emergencies can wait until work hours, and if it can't, make sure to give people that time back later. Time is one of our most precious resources, and feeling time poor is one of the leading causes of burnout.
Flexible Work Time
We all probably need some core hours where we know we can contact our team, but allowing flexibility reduces stress of making mental health appointments and supporting family members in crisis. I know my own stress levels went through the roof when I worked for an inflexible employer and tried to support my family member in crisis.
Mental Health Support
If you have power over selecting your insurance provider, make sure it covers mental health care (and not just anything over $75 per visit like one of my employers!). Mental health care is best addressed proactively before it reaches crisis point. Most mental health care requires regular, even weekly, visits and tend to cost between $120-$350 per visit, so it becomes quickly unaffordable without appropriate coverage.
Many work places now offer subscriptions to telehealth services like Better Help and TalkSpace as well as mental health services like Headspace and Calm. Encourage your employees to take small mental breaks in the day.
Embed Empathy into your culture
The most important is simply to recognize that your employees are humans and treat them like you would like to be treated. Ask them how they are, get to know personal information about them, have check-ins on a regular basis, celebrate birthdays and accomplishments, recognize employees for what they are doing, and let them have some fun together!
Ask your team how they are, and really listen for their answers.
Visit Lindow Learning to read about more tips on improving your team's performance or for help in growing better humans and improving the impact of your organization's mission.