Mental health is not simply the absence of a mental health condition. Instead, it’s a state of wellbeing in which individuals can live to their fullest potential, cope with the everyday stresses of life, work productively and contribute to their community.
1. Be aware of what mental health is.
Mental health is not simply the absence of a mental health condition. You don’t have “great” mental health just because you’re not diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Instead, it’s a state of wellbeing in which individuals can live to their fullest potential, cope with the everyday stresses of life, work productively and contribute to their community. A person’s mental health can swing dramatically throughout a month or year, depending on their circumstances and coping abilities.
2. Make known the availability of access to health services, mental health support, and any restorative programming.
One of the best things you can do as a leader is to communicate early and often about any different type of health service offered. Even if just one person uses it, it might genuinely make a difference in their life. The UN Policy Brief: Covid-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health (1) shared that this global pandemic has highlighted the vital need for access to mental health benefits.
You can make it a recurring blurb in the newsletter detailing how to access a different health benefit and where to direct any questions.
Unfortunately, bringing up mental health is a relatively new workplace topic. Do your best to have your company culture be inclusive regarding mental health conditions and be forthcoming in your priorities to support employees’ mental health while recruiting talent.
3. Support all seven dimensions of wellness: physical, social, intellectual, occupational, spiritual, emotional, environmental.
As humans, everything about us is interconnected. Our physical wellness is deeply impacted by our emotional wellness and vice versa. When we exercise, it releases endorphins that make us feel happy. Yet, if we are so stuck in grief or paralyzing anxiety that we can’t make it off the couch, exercise seems to become an impossibility. The longer we go without exerting our bodies, the more difficult it becomes to start the habit.
Read up on the seven dimensions of wellness and take some time to reflect: which dimension is particularly healthy? Which dimension should I put my best effort towards improving?
4. Add plants!
A connection with nature through plants, water, daylight, and views, including even an indirect connection through natural materials, patterns, and colors, has been found to improve mood, recovery from stress, and concentration.
“Extending nature contact in the physical work environment in offices can add to the variety of possible health-promoting workplace interventions, primarily since it influences the social climate on the workplace.” – Bjørnstad S, Patil GG, Raanaas RK (2)
In urban spaces where green spaces are not easy to find, more and more urban planners are adding green roofs. At first, they were just simple roofs with grass, but interestingly enough, a study published in Landscape and Urban Planning (3) has now been done showing that “‘wilder’ prairie-style green roofs are not always well-liked, they are more likely to be associated with fascination, creative thinking, and calm well being than sedum green roofs.”
5. Model self-care as a leader.
Leaders set the standard for company culture and values. If employees never see the boss take a sick day or go on vacation, they will most likely follow suit, even to the detriment of their mental health.
Reflect on what self-care for yourself looks like, and then make it a priority to not only do those steps but to encourage your employees to do likewise.
Days off and away from the office may not seem productive, but you and your employees will both come back fresh, well-rested, and with a new passion for doing the job well.
6. Integrate a wide variety of solutions.
Leaders must realize that mental health problems are common among workers and that the organization stands to lose quite a bit (in profit and productivity) if it doesn’t start to address some solutions. Workplaces can support employees by reducing work-related risk factors such as high stress and discrimination.
“Developing an integrated approach could also be framed as moving towards a comprehensive notion of workplace mental health literacy as involving the knowledge, beliefs, and skills that aid in the prevention of mental illness in the workplace, and the recognition, treatment, rehabilitation, and return to work of working people affected by mental illness.” This workplace mental health literacy, mentioned in BMC Psychiatry (4), would let employers and employees have a common language to communicate regarding mental health conditions.
In conclusion, there is plenty that employers can do to support employees’ mental wellbeing. This will help your business in terms of having workers who are productive and satisfied with their job and let those workers go home to their families and friends and live a rich life filled with contentment.
- This policy brief details the impacts, specific concerns for different populations, and recommended actions regarding Covid-19 and mental health. (PDF Download)
- This NIH resource discusses nature contact and organizational support during office working hours.
- This ScienceDirect study has fascinating results comparing the different types of roofs that urban planners have grown to implement more green space in cities mostly filled with buildings.
- This BMC resource highlights the benefits of integrating multiple steps in the workplace systems for mental health care.