Mental Health Awareness Month: Understanding the Employer’s Role in Employee Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about mental health and promote the importance of our mental well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the need for increased attention to mental health, especially in the workplace. Many employees are struggling with anxiety, depression and stress.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Workplace stress and poor mental health can negatively affect workers job performance and productivity as well as their engagement with others at work. It can also influence worker physical health, given that stress can be a risk factor for various cardiovascular diseases. More than 80% of US workers have reported experiencing workplace stress, and more than 50% believe their stress related to work impacts their life at home.

Workplace stressors may include:

  • Job insecurity
  • Lack of access to necessary equipment
  • Fear of employer retaliation
  • Confrontation with customers or co-workers
  • Adapting to new schedules or work rules
  • Physically demanding work
  • Blurring of work-life boundaries.

These stressors can take a toll on a person’s sense of well-being and negatively impact their mental health. For some, these stressors can contribute to serious problems, such as the development or exacerbation of mental health challenges, including anxiety disorders, depression, or substance use disorders.

The Role of Employers

While mental health issues can be complicated, employers can be part of the solution. More than 85% of employees surveyed in 2021 by the American Psychological Association reported that actions from their employer would help their mental health. An employer’s goal should be to find ways to alleviate or remove stressors in the workplace to the greatest extent possible, build coping and resiliency supports, and ensure that people who need help know where to turn.

Reducing workplace stress benefits everyone across an organization. It can improve morale and lead to increased productivity and better focus, fewer workplace injuries, fewer sick days and improved physical health (e.g., lower blood pressure, stronger immune system). All these factors can also lead to reduced turnover among an employer’s workforce.

The Occupational Safety and Health Hazard Association (OSHA) recommends the following guidance and tips for employers:

  • Identify stressors: The first step employers can take is to identify the factors that are making it harder for workers to get their jobs done. Employers can ask workers about their stressors and offer anonymous surveys to gather information. They can also observe workplace behavior.
  • Show empathy: Employers should acknowledge that people can carry an emotional load that is unique to their own circumstances. Showing empathy and understanding can help employees feel supported and heard.
  • Create a supportive workplace culture: Employers should create a culture of openness and support. This can include implementing policies that allow for flexible work schedules, encouraging regular breaks, providing access to mental health resources, and offering support groups or counseling services. Employers can also promote work-life balance by allowing employees to disconnect from work outside of their scheduled hours.
  • Encourage physical activity: Physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mental health

Reach Out to an Advisor

Want to learn more about how you can foster a supportive workplace for your employees? Talk to a SISCO risk consultant today for more information on trainings and strategies.