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4 Ways to Lead Mental Health at Work

BY: Hanna Riley // Marketing Manager • WELCOA

It’s no secret that mental health concerns in the workplace are on the rise and there has never been a more important time for employers to prioritize mental health in workplace culture and practices.

In a 2021 study conducted by WELCOA and Koa Health, employees reported their greatest mental health concerns to be burnout, anxiety, depression, sleeping disorders, coping with the return to the office, substance abuse, and self-esteem issues. For that reason, employees are increasingly looking for cultures that value safety and wellness as opposed to work experiences that center around productivity.

Another recent study found that high-performing, award-winning workplaces all shared a common focus on prioritizing mental health initiatives.

While there is growing research demonstrating that employers are beginning to step up to the plate, that is just one piece of the equation. The real question is how can employers be sure their mental health initiatives are going to hit a home run when it comes to cultivating healthy, happy, safe workplaces?

Understand What Mental Health Is

It’s firstly important for employers to understand that mental health isn’t simply the absence of mental illness, it’s our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health can be amplified or diminished by any number of influences, and those influences are unique to each person. An employer’s ability to impact mental health lies in providing systems and environments that amplify mental well-being and minimize the barriers that can cause mental well-being to diminish.

Before you can blaze full steam ahead, it’s important to educate yourself on the topic and assess any gaps that currently exist in your workplace culture.

Assess Your Current State

Your organization is unique. Your mental health strategy should be too. To better navigate the needs of your employees and how you can best support and promote their mental well-being, start by assessing your current state. Taking a workplace wellness assessment helps you understand exactly what you need to make your wellness program a success.

Create a Plan

Once you’ve educated yourself on mental health, and assessed your organization’s ability to support mental well-being, you’ll need a path forward. Create a plan that works to address any gaps in your ability to support mental well-being and amplifies the impact of your existing strategies.

This step can feel daunting, but we’ve created a 7-step process to help you cover all your bases when it comes to planning and addressing gaps.

Level-Up Your Own Leadership

As a leader, it’s important to recognize that you set the tone for perpetuating good mental health practices in the workplace. Some areas to consider leveling up your leadership include:

Leading by Example

Employers that lead by example and prioritize their own mental health are better positioned to create impact in the workplace and are better equipped to prevent their own burnout. Make sure to model healthy behavior, openly discuss mental health, designate self-care time during your work day, set boundaries for work hours to allow yourself to be unavailable, and reduce the stigma of taking time off by regularly planning vacation and caregiving time for yourself.

Empowering Others

Not everyone is comfortable talking about mental health, but enough space and the right tools can empower others to openly share when they are comfortable and ready. Check in on the mental health of your team members regularly, provide mental health resources to leaders and managers, help others stay accountable to their healthy boundaries, encourage others to prioritize self-care and mental health breaks during the workday, regularly encourage others to take time-off when it’s needed, and make space to listen to others when they share concerns about workload, stress, burnout, and other mental health concerns.

Leading with Access

When designing your benefit offerings for the year, make sure mental health is expressly included and available resources are regularly mentioned.
  • Offer robust mental health benefits in your Employee Assistance Program
  • Include options for tele-mental health visits
  • Offer access to mental health resources, training, support groups and make sure they are easily accessible
  • Ensure coverage for mental health care

Leading with Training

Ensure that you, your leaders, and your employees have access to ongoing training around mental health so they are always equipped to handle concerns when they surface. Better yet, make space for employees to talk about these trainings. Be sure to cover topics like burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, belonging, loneliness, social connection, harassment, violence, and inclusivity.

Leading with Policies

When reviewing your company policies, be sure to include policies that ensure the workplace culture and environment is one that supports mental health. These policies should include things like vacation time and caregiving leave, domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, harassment, substance use, etc. Be sure to regularly mention policies like those around vacation time and remind employees what they have access to and that there are policies in place to protect their mental health.

As the workplace landscape continues to evolve, any effort or focus toward prioritizing mental health in the workplace is worthwhile.

Looking for further support in any of these steps? WELCOA is here to support your success and the well-being of the people who are counting on your leadership.

Access everything you need to assess, plan, implement, and lead a mental health strategy with access to the WELCOA Platform.

Hanna Riley
Hanna Riley // Marketing Manager • WELCOA
Hanna brings a unique perspective to WELCOA through her eclectic history in wellness, healthcare, personal training, human resources and marketing. She has been in the shoes of WELCOA’s members and understands the challenges that they face. Hanna holds a BS in Kinesiology and Health Promotion. Her greatest passion is for the whole world to be well, and to help others rise through sharing stories, and fostering connection.