What is employee mental health support? (With tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 10 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

It's beneficial for companies to establish a safe, inclusive and supportive workplace to ensure the mental well-being and comfort of their workforce. There are several workplace stresses that, if left unchecked, can exacerbate mental health issues and harm the mental well-being of employees. If you want to help mitigate these risks, a good place to start is establishing strong employee mental health support. In this article, we explain what mental health support is, examine workplace factors that affect mental health and discuss ways to support positive employee mental health.

What is mental health?

Mental health describes a state of well-being that allows an individual to handle everyday stresses and live a productive and healthy life. Mental health is a part of a person's overall health, alongside physical health and social wellbeing. It isn't only the absence of any mental illness but a separate state of well-being. For example, someone might experience poor mental health with no underlying mental illness or condition.

Similarly, people with mental illnesses can also have good mental health. Mental health and an individual's performance aren't two separate issues but two parts of the same issue. When someone experiences poor mental health, their performance drops. For businesses, it's beneficial to factor in the mental well-being of employees to give them a chance to succeed and help the company prosper.

Related: How to enjoy work and be happier with your employment

What is employee mental health support?

Employee mental health support is a framework companies use to ensure their employees receive support for their mental health and well-being. It's a flexible approach that changes depending on company budgets, the workforce and the overall aims and goals of the company. One of the key aspects of mental health support for employees is creating a supportive workplace culture that allows for free and open discussion about mental health issues. Companies might achieve this in a few different ways, such as:

  • Learning about mental health: Companies benefit from understanding mental health to help educate their staff and raise awareness about the issue.

  • Conducting mental health awareness events: By taking part in events such as stress awareness month or world mental health day, companies create a platform for staff to discuss mental health issues in a safe and supportive space.

  • Pledging support to mental health charities: By offering support to mental health charities, companies show they understand and take mental health seriously. This encourages employees to discuss their own experiences with the topic.

Related: What's wellbeing in the workplace? (Definition and factors)

What factors negatively impact mental health in the workplace?

Employees might experience several factors in the workplace that negatively impact mental health. Some of these factors include:

Insufficient health and safety practises

Companies are advised to ensure employees follow robust health and safety practices to ensure the overall wellbeing of their workforce, guests and customers, while also protecting employers. For example, policies that enable employees working with hazardous materials to feel safe, by giving them adequate training and protective equipment. If the workplace doesn't meet these standards, it might negatively affect mental health as employees feel less safe while working. Companies can avoid the risk of losing staff and even facing legal challenges by prioritising safety.

Poor management practises

Ideally, workplaces strive to have open communication channels for staff and implement management practices that nurture a positive manager-employee relationship. Without a clear channel for communication, employees often feel left out and isolated, which puts undue strain on the manager-employee relationship. This can create additional workplace stress and conflict, which leads to an increased chance of poor mental health. Reliable management helps employees trust they can reveal their needs at work.

Related: What is performance management? (and how to use it)

Lack of employee support from HR

Companies have a duty to support their employees, provide them with adequate resources to succeed and remove any obstacles that impede them from doing their job. If a company doesn't do this, the workforce may feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. For example, instead of leaving it up to employees to sort out problems, the human resources department (HR) may provide conflict resolution support and guide them through difficulties, thereby helping the workforce to function more smoothly.

Pressure to perform

Employees often feel pressure to perform well in their role, which can put a significant strain on mental health if this goes too far. Consider using performance metrics, which analyse performance and workload stress, to ensure staff can handle the level of work given to them. Things like additional work, overtime, more duties and an overall pressure to outperform leads to more stress, which impacts mental well-being negatively. Recognising progress and celebrating growth instead of only celebrating achievements is one way to mitigate this.

Related: Ideas for employee wellbeing programmes you can explore

What are the consequences of poor mental health in the workplace?

Poor mental health in the workplace has several negative knock-on effects for both the employee and the entire business. Some consequences of poor mental health in the workplace include:

  • Lower workplace engagement: Poor mental health creates a lack of motivation in employees, which leads to a drop in focus and quality of work. Mental health issues in the workplace increase stress and anxiety around work, which ultimately has a detrimental effect.

  • Drop in productivity: When an employee performs well, it's a sign of mental strength in action. The decreased mental strength that stems from poor mental health can cause a notable drop in performance, resilience and creativity in employees, which makes reaching goals much more challenging.

  • Reduced day-to-day functioning: Poor mental health takes many outward forms in employees, ranging from social anxiety to a drop in cognitive performance. Because of this, the day-to-day functions of employees can also take a negative turn.

Related: The benefits of practising mindfulness techniques

How to provide mental health support to employees

To help you promote employee mental health in the workplace, follow the steps below:

1. Offer mental health resources

There are many useful resources companies can offer employees to promote positive mental health. Employee assistance programmes that focus on helping employees with any issues they have can promote positive communication and address concerns that might impact their workplace performance. Another option is bringing in professional mental health coaches who can offer employees training, guidance and additional support to improve mental health and wellbeing. This includes things like adjusting workplace behaviours to emphasise the right outlook when things are difficult. Coaching can also contribute to self-understanding, which improves mental health.

2. Provide mental health training

Many employees who deal with workplace stress don't know where to turn for help, so it's useful to create a platform for mental health training for both staff and management. This gives managers the tools to identify signs of poor mental health, such as symptoms of anxiety, depression and other established mental health conditions. Creating a platform to identify these issues makes it easier for employees to communicate their problems and concerns rather than holding them back.

Related: 14 effective calming techniques to help reduce anxiety

3. Train managers to handle signs of emotional distress

One of the key ways to address mental health is to bring it out into the open, rather than pretending it isn't an issue. Employees perform at their best when they can be themselves in the workplace, so they feel comfortable letting their managers know when they don't feel confident or exhibit signs of emotional distress.

Managers can be trained to know how to listen to employees and support them when they're struggling with their mental health. The key here is that there is no judgement and the focus is solely on supporting employees. Strategies to help with this include things like taking a mental health day for self-reflection and healing, extending project deadlines or offering more flexible working hours.

4. Add mental health coverage to healthcare plans

Many workplaces that offer healthcare plans don't incorporate mental health coverage, which leads to a lot of issues for employees dealing with poor mental health. Consider things like alternative care as part of the coverage, such as massage therapy or acupuncture. These alternative options can help with mental health and provide numerous physical health benefits.

Related: 10 ways to promote wellness in the workplace (with benefits)

5. Promote communication to mitigate the stigma of mental health

It's useful to provide a safe space for employees to discuss their mental health if they choose to. It may be an organic approach that doesn't force staff to discuss their personal details: any form of open dialogue helps lower the stigma associated with mental health. The ability to speak honestly and openly about problems helps employees understand their issues and shows others they aren't alone if they feel that way, too. This open space helps to boost team morale, employee retention and productivity.

6. Ensure that wellbeing is a part of the workplace culture

It's also beneficial to celebrate the small victories in employee mental health progress. So promote things like walking meetings with teams, conduct water challenges to stay hydrated and let employees know about the benefits of healthy self-care. Try to promote a healthy work-life balance wherever you can to help employees feel better about their life in and out of the workplace. Doing so helps to boost productivity and gives employees a better perspective on the importance of their mental health.

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