November 2, 2033 — Events over the past couple of years have altered the landscape of mental health for millions, bringing it to the forefront of discussions at home and at work. But the pandemic was hardly the start of something new.
According to a report by The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, mental disorders have since been on the rise in every country and will cost the global economy an estimated $16 trillion by 2030.
For many small business owners, the go-to method for helping employees manage their mental health comes from insurance benefits. But what if that’s not something you’re able to provide? Let’s look at some of the best grassroots methods and resources that can improve the mental health of your employees.
Eliminate The Stigma
True, we’ve come a long way in the discussion of mental health. But for many, it still feels like a taboo even to mention it. As a small business owner, you’re in the perfect position to ensure that your work environment is one of respect, acknowledgment, and acceptance.
Though not always as visible as a physical illness or injury, struggles with mental health warrant the same amount of compassion.
You can start by making it clear that the mental health of your employees is a top priority for you and your business. Incorporate mental health awareness into your culture, and reiterate its importance during times of stress. Make sure everyone knows it’s perfectly okay to bring up concerns about mental health affecting work (or vice versa) with you privately.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Prevention is vital when it comes to keeping a mental health balance. Maintaining the wellbeing of your employees is far easier than trying to motivate those already struggling with their mental health. An experiment conducted by the Social Market Foundation and the University of Warwick in Britain discovered that the happiest employees are the most productive. Good mental health is also beneficial for business, so it’s an absolute win-win.
How can you be proactive about the mental health of your employees? One great way is to offer regularly scheduled mental health check-ins verbally or in writing. Letting everyone communicate their mental health status at least once a month can help you pinpoint work-related stress and find potential solutions.
It’s important to remember that these check-ins should always be optional, and you should never request specifics regarding an employee’s mental health. What they choose to share with you is up to them.
Make Logistical Changes
Often, work and stress go hand in hand. Some of it is inevitable, but as a small business owner, you have the power to make changes that can alleviate some of that stress. Part of this involves listening to your employees and taking note of any working conditions affecting their mental health.
It could be as simple as adjusting an employee’s work schedule from PM to AM, so they have more time to spend with children or allowing them to work remotely on certain days. If an employee mentions that they’re having trouble with their workload, you may consider looking at the expectations of the role and splitting the work between multiple positions.
Sometimes there won’t be an easy answer, but it’s essential to have an open mind and be willing to make changes.
Listen To What’s Being Said… And What Isn’t
An ongoing theme in mental health awareness involves listening to your employees, even when they aren’t speaking directly to you. This doesn’t mean you should be spying on anyone – instead, keep an eye out for verbal and nonverbal cues that might indicate the employee is struggling with their mental health.
If someone replies to you with a downcast expression, despondent speech, and slumped posture, take a minute to check in and ask how they’re feeling. Some other nonverbal signs of mental health struggles include unexpected changes in productivity, calling in sick frequently, difficulty focusing, and missing deadlines.
Instead of approaching the employee in an adversarial or accusatory manner, let them know you’re concerned about their wellbeing and relay the desire to help.
Even without insurance benefits, there are mental health resources out there. Encourage your employees to research local options or take the search online. Here are just a few digital resources you can start using today, all of which are free: