There is a mental health crisis in the U.S.A. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 U.S. adults aged 18 or older experience mental illness, and 71% of adults experience at least one symptom of stress, such as feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Because of these staggering statistics, insurance companies, healthcare providers, and employers across the country have directed their focus on addressing mental health and employee wellness.
Here are six ways human resource departments can help reduce stress and promote better mental health in the workplace.
1). Create a unique employee wellness program
The workplace is an important place to address and identify stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues and provide support and access to treatment. Employee wellness programs are just one of many forms of support in the workplace, encouraging employees to maintain healthy lifestyles and to communicate their needs to employers.
To get started building an employee wellness program, keep these four principles in mind:
- For employees to be engaged at work, they need to be healthy. Therefore, include opportunities to enhance physical and mental health, build relationships, and create financial stability.
- The workplace environment is vital to promoting good health and business success. Create healthy workplace environments by adding equipment in the office, such as stand-up desks, treadmills, meditation rooms, and other health-focused tools.
- Prevention-focused education is critical. Provide health education about stress, various health concerns, diversity skills, safe driving, and bullying.
- Rewards for healthy employee behaviors will encourage success. For example, offer financial incentives such as gift cards, certificates, gym memberships, etc.
2). Update benefits to include virtual offerings
According to SHRM, employers should consider expanding services offered through employee assistance programs and adding virtual behavioral care options. According to the 2022 AHIP Mental Health Survey, 100% of insurance companies will provide coverage for telehealth behavioral health services in the future. In addition, HR departments can help by providing resources for finding and accessing mental healthcare providers, including tools that provide scheduling support.
3). Encourage communication about health concerns
Destroying taboos around discussing mental or physical health concerns will go a long way to promoting employee wellness in the workplace. Many organizations are working to foster company cultures with a greater understanding of mental health through education. This will encourage employees and employers to feel more open to discussing when they feel overwhelmed or stressed or if they are struggling in any other way.
WebMD highlights some communication principles to build stronger teams:
- Consider utilizing existing channels for communication and include direct links to program offerings.
- Listen to employees to determine the best way to communicate with them.
- Cover what you hope your staff will get out of the wellness program, including specific actions you would like them to take.
- Don’t use corporate speak or jargon – be honest with your employees when talking about workplace wellness.
- Include a call to action up front and let them know how the program will benefit them.
4). Offer reasonable accommodations
According to Fisher Phillips, an employment law firm, “43% of employers have seen an increase in mental health reasonable accommodation requests since the pandemic started.” Here are some typical accommodations that have risen in popularity in the past couple of years.
- Flexible work schedules, including hybrid and remote work, have become increasingly popular. In the past two years, around 25% of employers have received work-from-home requests on the basis of mental health. However, not all employees will benefit from this work style, so it is essential to listen to the needs of individuals when implementing particular work schedules.
- Emotional support animals and service animals are becoming more prevalent in the workplace. However, there are significant differences between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. For example, you are legally required to permit a service animal in the workplace. In contrast, emotional support animals are an optional accommodation you may offer employees.
5). Incentivize mandatory mental health days
Mandatory mental health days are separate from typical PTO. Many employers even offer incentives for employees to use mental health days to encourage them to take more time off when needed. HubSpot, for example, battles burnout with a Global Week of Rest, No Internal Meeting Fridays, and other mental health programs. LinkedIn, Bumble, Hootsuite, Mozilla, and others have also been known to give their employees an extra week off in the summer to give employees a much-needed break.
6). Use Benefit Administration tools for easy enrollment and access to information
Benefit administration tools are typically designed to streamline processes and help employees find information about their benefits and coverage. Look for solutions that provide employee self-service tools and guarantee employee confidence in benefit enrollment decisions. Other great features to look for include:
- Enrollment data can be securely sent to multiple insurance carriers
- Eliminates risks associated with regulatory mandates
- Side-by-side benefit overviews for employees to compare plans
Employee wellness and the future of HR
The proliferation of employee wellness in the workplace is just one of many changes HR professionals will face in the years to come. HR departments will require advanced technology and continued training and education to keep up. Many HR organizations have been stepping up to the plate to help professionals gain the skills and tools they need for success. For example, SHRM offers certificate programs to empower HR professionals, and other HR organizations provide the technology required to face future challenges. It’s up to individual HR professionals and their departments to research and discover what will work best for them.
Ben Tuttle has over a decade of experience working with HR professionals and HR Technologies. He has helped hundreds of organizations find HR technology that suits their business needs. Currently, he is a Product Manager with Proliant, Inc and is launching a new Applicant Tracking System. He resides in Boston, MA.
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Twitter Handle: @ProliantInc