Protecting your Assets: Addressing Workplace Mental Health in 2022
With most of us considering the mind the greatest asset in business, it’s only natural that we’re nurturing it in every capacity. Workplace mental health has become more than just words on a page in an employee manual – it’s become a fundamental pillar in an organization’s presence – and ultimately, its sustainable success.
Collectively, we’ve all been through a lot (to say the least) over the past two years. A global pandemic, racial and political injustice, environmental catastrophes, and economic uncertainty weigh heavily on many of us. When you pile all that on top of what people go through in their own daily and personal lives, it’s safe to assume that there are some days that we’re all just hanging on by a metaphorical thread.
Companies that not only acknowledge, but prioritize employee mental health, are leading the way to a brighter future. As we emerge from the pandemic and define “new normal” together, mental health awareness and providing actionable benefits are a necessity in business and must be communicated and encouraged to its workers.
First and foremost, businesses need to nurture an environment for open communication between upper management and their employees. Company-wide changes and decisions that affect everyone should be communicated up front rather than relying on the old grapevine. Employers should be checking in on employees beyond asking when that report will be in their inbox, or lobbing out an insincere “you’re ok, right?”. Fostering communication in the workplace opens the door to honesty, so when someone isn’t feeling their best, they’re not afraid to say so.
A comprehensive mental health-friendly benefits plan that stretches beyond basic coverage for counselling is also a must. Take Starbucks, for example. In 2016, the company implemented a new program to all partners (employees), offering $5,000 a year in mental health coverage to those who work 20 hours a week or more.
“We do not believe the current level of support for mental health benefits provided by Canadian employers is sufficient and we encourage all companies in Canada to step up and join this important effort,” said Sara Presutto, Vice President of Human Resources for Starbucks Coffee, back when the policy was announced. “The most important thing we can do is offer a safe and welcoming work environment that supports our [employees] every day, and especially in times of need.” The company must have had a crystal ball: imagine how useful the benefit is today.
The truth is, comprehensive mental health benefits support a healthy, sustainable workplace. Just from a business standpoint, lost productivity due to mental health illness costs Canadian businesses an estimated $6 billion annually. And that was before the pandemic. With the recent exponential increase in anxiety and depression, that cost for businesses has surely risen.
Happy, healthy employees contribute to lower disability usage and employee retention, which ultimately costs your company less. Consider mental health days (or even weeks), meditation and mindfulness training, or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to provide a sense of security and stability in tough times. This resource from the Canadian Mental Health Association is a great place to start.
As employers approaching a new year and new beginnings after the pandemic, it’s our responsibility to make sure no individual is suffering in or outside of the workplace. Yes, our employees are our greatest asset, but ultimately, they are humans first. This is an important age where early intervention can help ensure a healthy future, and workplace mental health support is the best and most important step you can take to help.