By Mary-Lou MacDonald
Eighty-five percent of working Canadians agree that employees with mental health challenges can be productive members of the team as long as they have access to the right supports. And yet 31% weren’t sure they would reveal their mental health challenges because they are worried their supervisor would not be understanding or supportive.1 In fact, fully two-thirds of people living with a mental health issue don’t seek help because of the stigma attached to mental illness.2
In other words, even if you offer a wide range of mental health supports – from EAP offerings to supplemental coverage for therapy to telehealth options – your employees likely won’t reach out for help if they don’t trust you and your organization to protect them. They are worried about the stigma, but they are also worried about their job security.
The good news is that organizations can take proactive steps to solve this problem. And often, it’s not an additional spend. It’s mostly about leveraging the solutions you already have in place to make them more visible. Consider this:
- Normalize the conversation. It’s really up to the employer to create this shift. Empower members of your C-suite to talk about their struggles with stress and anxiety. Personalize it. Empower others to do the same. Create a “network of champions” – employees who can be vocal about their own struggles, preferably those who are willing and able to mentor others – to reinforce it as normal. It can be especially powerful if you utilized the EAP or another company-funded option when sharing your struggles.
- Implement strong protection policies. If employees have to leave the workforce, there are barriers to bringing them back. If at all possible, it’s a good idea to keep people in the workforce as much as possible, even if you have to accommodate them with lighter duties or flexible schedules. And policies and procedures protecting employees from discrimination can go a long way toward making people comfortable to ask for help.
- Focus on prevention. Of course, it’s best if your workplace culture focuses on prevention. Leverage the EAP offerings: Offer resiliency training across the board and coach training to anyone who manages people. Promote financial education as a means of managing stress. Make sure self-care – from sleeping and eating well to limiting working hours and supporting taking breaks from devices – is valued and supported. Leaders who share their daily habits and methods of managing stress are especially valuable here. Promote the company offerings, especially those in the EAP, and remind employees that it is confidential.
- Leverage third-party resources for support. Your health and performance consultant is a great resource. They can provide the data to start things off – what is being used, what you are missing. They can also help guide you away from a collection of unrelated initiatives and toward a well-rounded strategy. Organizations with a comprehensive strategy are the most successful at seamlessly supporting their employees.
Contact your HUB Health and Performance consultant to find out how you and your business can better support employee mental health.