The uncertainty wrought by Covid-19 continues to cast a pall over organisations. Unpredictable surges resulting in, among other things, changes to working arrangements, KPIs and business goals undoubtedly have an impact on people’s mental well-being.
Our conversations with human resources professionals reveal that they have been discussing this issue more seriously in the past year. However, while many have been initiating mental health programmes in their organisations, whether these programmes have been effective is a point of contention.
A recent survey by McKinsey & Company revealed a disconnect between employers and employees on several fronts. For instance, while 71 per cent of employers with frontline employees reported that they support mental health well or very well, only 27 per cent of frontline employees agree.
Clearly, more needs to be done in terms of eliciting and acting upon employee feedback. Simply having programmes in place is not enough. If employees are not aware of them, find them inadequate or ineffective, or can’t easily access them due to other barriers, it’s as good as not having anything in place.
Various studies also show that destigmatisation efforts need to be intensified in order to improve both the provision and take-up of mental health assistance programmes.
Bearing these factors in mind, here are some concrete steps you can take to truly improve mental well-being in your organisation.
1. Manage Change Proactively
From having to adjust to new ways of working to picking up new skills or job functions to meet evolving business goals, employees are undergoing changes on multiple fronts. These can result in extreme stress and anxiety if the organisation isn’t mindful of how it implements changes.
HR must ensure that leaders are adequately trained to prepare and equip employees to navigate transitions in a healthy manner, even if these transitions are sometimes unexpected and need to be executed rapidly. This would help you pre-empt stress and anxiety.
In addition to using change management models that emphasise sensitive communication and execution, leaders must be sensitised to emotional distress and mental health crises among their team members and be trained to intervene appropriately.
2. Actively Destigmatise the Issue
One of the most formidable barriers to seeking mental health care is stigma.
To address this, leaders should model self-care and share their experiences. This will not only encourage others to prioritise their own wellness, but will also promote psychological safety, reassuring them that they can share their struggles and thoughts without being judged or penalised.
Company-wide e-mails explaining mental health benefits and listing the various resources you’ve made available to employees can further drive home the message that mental health is a safe subject to discuss and deal with at work. Send out regular e-mails to update employees on new research or new resources. Frequent communication will further normalise the issue.
You should also consider organising company-wide workshops and dialogue sessions that raise awareness about relevant mental health issues.
3. Ask Employees What They Need
The types of mental health resources and benefits you provide should be determined by your employees’ needs. Many companies simply rely on external research, but no two organisations are the same.
Your employees might have unique needs because of the nature of their work or your current corporate culture. Ask them about the challenges they face and what they think would help. Using this data to drive your programmes will enable you to provide more effective solutions.
4. Train Leaders to Listen, Understand and Acknowledge
Train and encourage those in leadership positions to reach out to their team members personally. Phone calls or personal notes to check in on them, understand and acknowledge their problems will reinforce the company’s commitment to employees’ well-being.
This will also help leaders and their direct reports connect on a personal level and cultivate trust.
5. Designate Mental Health Leaders
Appointing mental health leaders within the organisation would ensure that the issue remains on your list of strategic priorities.
These individuals can be put in charge of assessing benefits, ensuring access to treatment, monitoring employee well-being and mental health needs, and managing workplace programmes related to behavioural health.
McKinsey & Company’s recent national employer health survey revealed that approximately three-quarters of employers have designated a mental health leader. About 40 per cent of these were appointed to executive roles.
6. Ensure Resources and Benefits are Accessible
Providing mental health resources and benefits isn’t enough. You have to make sure that employees can access them easily.
If resources and benefits aren’t being used, survey your employees to find out why and remove all possible barriers.
These could include a lack of awareness, a fear that their mental health information won’t be kept confidential, complicated enrolment processes or simply, ineffective solutions.
Act upon this feedback to ensure a truly healthy workplace.
7. Constantly Monitor and Review
Just as the business environment changes, your employees needs will change. Ensure you have a mechanism in place to monitor the success of mental health benefits and programmes. Conduct surveys every quarter to get your employees’ views on what’s working and what isn’t, and take action accordingly.
Mental health distress can hurt employee productivity and engagement. In order to effectively support business objectives, companies need to squarely address mental health issues. Aside from being a business imperative, helping your employees get the care they need is simply the right thing to do.