By Katherine Ponte, JD, MBA, CPRP
The mental health movement in the workplace has been growing over the past several years. This focus is extremely important given the direct impact of work on mental health. The average person spends upwards of 40 hours a week working. Work is also a leading source of stress, which is a potential trigger of mental illness.
Companies have so much to gain from investing in their employees’ mental health. Wellness increases productivity. And investing in employee wellness increases company loyalty and improves recruitment.
If employees are more loyal and productive, often, the company will be more successful. This positive feedback loop is beneficial to both parties. It’s also beneficial to the mental health movement, where companies play an important role.
Companies have the power to influence their employees through mental health workplace policies; the public through marketing and mental health awareness campaigns; their community through goodwill initiatives, such as support for non-profits; and their competitors, by making mental health benefits a competitive consideration in employee recruitment and retention.
There are many actions companies can take to enhance workplace mental health.
Companies can implement clear policies and values supporting mental health. Company leadership at all levels should:
Companies can adopt recruiting practices that respect the potential contributions of candidates with mental illness, such as:
Employers should consider reasonable accommodations, such as those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This flexibility may allow employees to perform work activities better by offering more suitable work environments, schedules and time allowances for appointments.
Employers should train supervisors to identify emotional distress and implement strategies to assist employees who may be struggling. These strategies may include:
Employers can require all employees to complete basic mental health education. This helps employees support colleagues facing challenges and self-identify areas of concern. These strategies may include:
Train employees to better identify and manage certain work activities and environments that may trigger and exacerbate emotional distress. This can also include addressing coronavirus-specific triggers.
Encouraging peer-to-peer engagement and support. Employers can also share online peer-based support communities, which can complement workplace initiatives.
An employer’s benefits package is an important tool in promoting workplace mental health. These features can include:
Employers may support the work of mental health nonprofits and issues impacting the mental health community to further signal company support for mental health. Notable initiatives could include:
Corporate America does and can play an increasingly impactful role in the mental health movement. Supporting people with emotional distress and mental health conditions supports all employees. It allows employees to work at their best and can significantly enhance corporate performance.
The growing and open discussion of mental health issues in society reinforces its importance to companies. Mental health initiatives are increasingly vital to corporate performance and corporate citizenship. They are a measure of the quality of a company. Good mental health is good business.
Additional resources: Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health and One Mind at Work.
Author’s Note: I would like to thank the Stability Network— a coalition of 197 successful professionals living with mental health conditions who share their stories and experiences to help others. When I thought the possibility of meaningful work was impossible due to my mental illness, you inspired me, you showed me that that was not true. Your work showcasing non-stigmatizing examples of successful professionals has undoubtedly inspired many people as it did me.
Katherine Ponte is a mental health advocate, writer and entrepreneur. She is the founder of ForLikeMinds, the first online peer-based support community dedicated to people living with or supporting someone with mental illness, and Bipolar Thriving, a recovery coaching service for caregivers and their loved ones affected by bipolar disorder. She is also the creator of the Psych Ward Greeting Cards program in which she personally shares her recovery experiences and distributes donated greeting cards to patients in psychiatric units. She is in recovery from severe bipolar I disorder with psychosis. She is also on the board of NAMI New York City.
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