5 Ways Your Small Business Can Support Employee Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected many employees’ mental health. As an employer, learn how you can help your staff.

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Surveys, mental health resources, self-care policies and practices — here are some of the ways you can help

In recent years, it’s become clear that mental health matters just as much as physical health. Considering that 1 in 5 adults lived with a mental illness under non-COVID times, the stress of the pandemic has compounded it. Millions of people across the country are already dealing with reduced hours, furloughs, and unemployment. Many of those who still have a job live with the stress of wondering every day if they’ll be next.

All of this to say, there is probably no time like the present to take a good, hard look at how you handle mental health as a small business. Not only does mental health impact performance and your business, it shows how you take care of your employees.

If you’re unsure where to start, here are 5 ways to support employee mental health at your small business.

Considering that 1 in 5 adults lived with a mental illness under non-COVID times, the stress of the pandemic has compounded it.

Consider anonymous surveys

It’s probably always going to be hard for most employees to be totally candid with their managers and other leaders. It can also be hard for people to speak up when it seems like they’re the only ones having a particular problem or if they feel like others will judge them for what they say. When it comes to uncovering mental health stressors at your small business, anonymous surveys can go a long way. They can help truly uncover the mental health status of your workers and the support they need to thrive in the workplace.

Read more: Employee Satisfaction Surveys Can Measure and Boost Engagement

Offer mental health resources

The most straightforward thing you can do to support mental health at your company is to offer mental health resources. Whether that’s ensuring that company insurance covers mental health needs to offering time off to tend to mental health needs, there are a variety of ways to provide mental health resources to those under your charge. People have likely identified coping mechanisms that work best for them. So, as an employer, the best thing you can do is allow them to help themselves.

Implementing a flexible PTO policy that allows for people to take time off when they need it without having to disclose the reason why is an excellent option to explore.

When it comes to time off, implementing a flexible PTO policy that allows for people to take time off when they need it without having to disclose the reason why is an excellent option to explore. No matter how accepting you make your company culture, there are always going to be people who want privacy. For many that certainly includes their mental health struggles. Thus, allowing employees to take time off without having to state why can go a long way.

Another popular option is offering mental health days. This can be the bridge that people need to take time off to care for their mental health, whatever that might look like for them. Making mental health days an explicit option can be one way to make it clear that you take your employee’s mental health seriously. Then, it’s important to actually support your employees when they take their days off. Make sure that there aren’t cultural influences that keep them from doing so.

Craft and uphold self-care policies and practices

This can take all kinds of forms depending on the style of your individual business. It could be:

  • Establishing a policy on not sending work emails on the weekends
  • Offering stress management courses
  • Encouraging employees not to eat lunch at their desks
  • Discussing the merits of getting enough quality sleep
  • Bringing wellness to the office in the form of lunchtime yoga classes

The possibilities are endless but start with identifying the needs of your employees.

Evaluate your employees’ workloads

Now is a critical time to pay attention to your employee’s workload. Whether this is done through an audit you conduct yourself or through self-reporting from your employees, it’s important to identify overworked employees and find ways to quickly mitigate the issue. If your employees’ workload has been reduced due to the pandemic, consider creating a timeline for when you anticipate work to get back to normal. In addition, find ways to compensate or at least demonstrate your appreciation for the employees going above and beyond.

Whether this is done through an audit you conduct yourself or through self-reporting from your employees, it’s important to identify overworked employees and find ways to quickly mitigate the issue.

Create and foster a safe and accepting company culture

Research shows that stress is a major driver of mental and physical health issues. This is where company culture comes in.

Everyone has had one of those jobs where you’re expected to reply to emails at all hours of the night; where management blames their subordinates for their failures; where bullying can be considered a management style. Of course, these aren’t the only ways that work stress can seep into affecting your employee’s mental health. Every small business is different, and there are plenty of ways that company culture can influence employee stress.

Culture-wise, there are a handful of tactical solutions you can take. As the leader, simply starting the conversation on mental health (whether that’s sharing personal anecdotes or articles on mental health) can be a huge help. Make sure that you have clear methods for identifying and addressing patterns of misconduct like management losing tempers, ridiculing their teams, using intimidation to manage, and the like. If your company is lacking in some of these areas, now is the time to begin investing in change.

Read more: Building a Positive Company Culture: 5 Strategies That Work

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