Employees are stressed. And no one factor is contributing. Workloads, deadlines, and feelings of being overwhelmed are common causes, but personal issues like finances and health make their way to the workplace, too.

It’s made emotional and mental health a shared concern of employees and employers. Employees increasingly want help for it. And companies are increasingly inclined to provide it, given the  prevalence of employee mental health issues. 60% of employerssay it’s become more widespread in the last five years, with depression the most common problem. It’s estimated that 200 million lost workdaysannually to depression, costing employers between $17 and $44 billion.

As a result, programs addressing employee mental health issues are increasingly a part of the holistic well-being strategies being put in place by employers who are serious about improving the overall health and performance of their organizations. They are deliberately creating an environment where work/life balance and good employee mental health are a priority, and doing so with revised policies and practices and enriched voluntary benefits to meet employees’ specific needs.

The most successful are creating an environment where balance and employee mental health are a priority. It starts with existing policies and practices, and cultural audits to understand the work environment.  For example, if employees aren’t taking vacations and are routinely putting in 60-hour workweeks, audits can help dig into the causes and point the way to adjustments.

To support their workers, employers are making better use of the free educational hours that are part of their Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Some are using those hours for on-site programs focused on relevant issues like women and depression, or tips to help employees better manage chronic stress. Others use those EAP hours to get middle managers trained in recognizing symptoms of anxiety, depression or sleeplessness. This training equips them to triage the symptoms, engage in meaningful conversations with troubled workers and steer them to the right interventions and resources.

True Story:

A HUB client was recently seeing a high number of claims for anxiety-related medications, accompanied by a few suicides. To bring about earlier interventions, the company used the services of its onsite EAP clinician to train managers on spotting signs of emotional stress – and refer workers to resources for help. Feedback so far is positive at all levels.

There are plenty of resources to offer that meet the interests and concerns of a diverse workforce. Among the creative solutions enacted:

  • Mindfulness training. Many employers encourage their people to meditate or learn techniques that will help them decrease stress, and encourage them to take five to ten minute workday breaks to put them in practice. Mobile apps or Web applications make this training inexpensive and easy to access.
  • Flexible schedules. Allowing remote officing or flexible schedules helps people better integrate their work and home lives and reduces the stress of balancing the two.
  • Passion projects. Google pioneered this concept, of giving people a certain amount of paid time off to volunteer or pursue interests that aren’t work related. It’s this type of program that revitalizes a workforce and gets people to re-engage.
  • Email quiet hours. Policies like this one, where work emails are held after 6 p.m. weekdays and until 8 a.m. Mondays, are important to ensure there’s walk to the talk.

Employers are increasingly recognizing the role of employee mental health in driving the overall health of the organization, and setting new standards in the process. They’re creating an environment where the stigma over mental and emotional issues is dramatically reduced. It’s become okay – healthy, in fact – to ask for assistance.  Everyone wins.

To learn more about benefits, programs and resources to help you create this kind of environment, contact your HUB consultant.