Monday, 2 May

4 matters of mental well-being that HR departments should especially focus on

Due to the ongoing pandemic of an infectious disease known as COVID-19 that started over a year and a half ago, the economy has slid into the worst economic crisis since the end of World War 2. An overwhelming number of deaths (about 4 million as of June 6, 2021), deepening social isolation, and, above all, an increasing uncertainty of employment have noticeably worsened mental well-being among employees around the globe.

Specialists and leaders managing human resources are now facing the challenge of defining and eliminating companies’ difficulties arising from problems with the mental health of employees. We have to carefully examine and adequately react to at least four of them.

Employees’ stress caused by dynamically changing working conditions

A sudden attack of the pandemic, which also involved the introduction of strict sanitary precautions in the workplace, has forced employers to alter work rules and protocols. On top of that, many industries have witnessed a reduction in the workforce, and duties of the suspended, sent home, or fired have been assigned to the rest. All those actions have greatly increased stress, especially among those employees who had been already battling mental health problems before the pandemic. Unfortunately, many of them have resorted to negative coping mechanisms during the ongoing events. They have turned to a variety of psychoactive substances and alcohol, and the social isolation imposed by restrictions have deepened their mental and health problems even more.

In order to help such people, HR specialists should use the full potential of change management options. There are three steps that employers should be able to employ when introducing changes in the workplace, many of them being radical. Firstly, adequate and quick intervention in case of employees experiencing emotional crises and mental disorders. Secondly, encouraging subordinates to treat their mental health more seriously. Thirdly, providing them with a comfortable atmosphere and the feeling of safety by creating a safe space for discussion and sharing thoughts and ideas. All those actions lead to the promotion of mental health in the workplace.

Misusing employee support programs

Many bigger companies that have well-developed HR departments are actually not interested in the support programs suggested by them to their employees. Such mental health programs should play an instrumental role in the quick detection of mental disorders of the employed, but in reality, they are almost not used at all. This is why each employer should conduct a special survey among the employees that will attempt to discover real reasons for the inefficiency of the offered form of help (for which the company pays).

According to recent research (2021) conducted by Lyra Health, as many as 36% of participating workers did not try to use the help program for mental health provided by their employers, and 31% had no idea what these programs were all about.

This arises from the fact that even though employees are aware of special protection protocols, they fear such programs do not adhere to confidentiality principles. What is more, the researchers point out a quite complicated sign-up procedure in those programs that discourages prospective users and induces additional stress in employees that are already coping with mental disorders.

An extremely important aspect of improving the quality of care for mental health in the workplace is also a toxic work culture. Currently, workers that deal with mental health problems are stigmatized, condemned, and often severely punished. Because of this, they hide their real problems from the employer and coworkers.

Insufficient care for mental health culture in the workplace

In order to fight the common stigmatization of mental health in the workplace, appropriate and transparent relationships between workers, managers, and leaders of a company must be built. A community based on mutual trust and respect seems to be an absolutely fundamental matter.

Consistently sent company-wide emails that define the benefits of sharing their mental health information with other workers are cited as the most frequent method employed in destigmatizing mental health in the workplace. Another effective method is organizing educational workshops that teach mutual, interpersonal support and informing about help programs and how to optimally use them.

It is important that each announcement concerning mental health reaches every employee of a company. Every employee should feel noticed and emotionally engaged in creating new standards of mental health culture.

The employer that wants to care for mental health culture in the workplace more should pay attention, especially to the problem of disorders related to alcohol or psychoactive substance abuse among the employees. Everyone battling such difficulties should be able to receive adequate treatment and necessary knowledge on the particular matter.

Decrease in employees’ productivity

An obvious consequence of mental health problems in the workplace is the decrease of employees’ productivity (not only among those that actually cope with particular disorders). This is why the main task of an employer is to promote the mental well-being culture and forge it into a tool to achieve particular business goals.

Of course, no employer should ever sacrifice the employees’ mental state for short-term profits. The “groundwork” should involve a quick detection of workers’ problems and providing the staff with adequate resources and forms of help (mental health services) against those difficulties.

Taking care of work culture, frequent conversations and an in-depth analysis of negative behaviors of employees will help every employer to boost the company’s efficiency. A well-prepared HR department should ensure this kind of stability in the workplace by answering the individual needs of the employed.

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