Companies no longer look at mental health benefits as a nice-to-have but rather a necessity. Dr. Kennette Thigpen, CEO of Welltrust Partners, stated, “with the current political climate, social unrest and the looming pandemic, we are about to embark on a tsunami of mental health needs.” For this reason, many human resource departments have started to revisit, revamp or implement mental health services for their employees.
Here are four ways you can proactively address and support your employees mental health for COVID-19 and beyond.
Understand How Mental Health Programs Can Support Employees
The most common mental health program employers offer is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP is designed to provide assistance and support to employees so they can cope and find solutions to problems they are facing in their personal and professional lives.
Selecting the right mental health program can be a challenging task. The reason being is because each employee struggles with different issues. This is where an EAP becomes invaluable. An EAP covers a wide area of topics ranging from family, financial support, pet care, bereavement, child and elder care, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol abuse and anything else that ultimately impacts employee’s workplace productivity.
To better understand how mental health services can support employees, employers should determine what type of services are available in each program. It’s important to note, not every EAP will have the same offerings. Along with choosing the right services, the EAP an employer selects should offer virtual support tools and resources that are easily accessible to employees.
Believe it or not, most medical plans include an EAP for employee’s who are enrolled in their medical insurance. HR can contact their medical insurance provider or account manager to see if it’s included in their company’s plan.
Dedicate A Portion Of Your Budget To Investing In Mental Health Services
Many companies forgo offering mental health services because they don’t understand the return on investment of doing so. As a consequence, employee’s personal and professional problems consume them to the point that it interferes with the quality of their work. Moreover, when an employer neglects mental health issues it creates an environment of distrust and fear. This leads to a workplace of employees who are silently struggling.
Thigpen shared what companies would gain from investing in mental health services, such as an EAP, for their employees. Here are some examples:
- Increased trust between managers and employees
- Increased retention
- Decreased absenteeism
- Boosted productivity
- Decreased health care costs and claims
- Increased customer/client satisfaction
- Reflects positively on the company and brand
- Attracts quality candidates
- Creates a supportive, healthy and trusting culture
Addressing the root of poor and impacted performance means having services in place that can help the employee. The reality is, mental health concerns can arise at any time, therefore, it’s important for employees to know they’ll be taken care of should an issue or crisis arise. Furthermore, HR and management should consistently monitor their employees to not only ensure they’re doing well but to see when they’re not themselves.
It would benefit companies greatly to bring in a professional to speak about mental health, answer questions and outline practices that promote good mental health. Fostering a supportive company culture starts with the employer. Employers who take the time to invest in mental health services, educate and check-in with their employees, encourage healthy self-care habits and commit to clear and frequent communication will have a thriving workplace.
Promote Services And Its Benefits Frequently
After selecting a mental health program, the next step should be communicating it through various channels. Companies can do this through email, Slack, flyers (if they’re in office), company town halls, frequently sharing the updated policy as well as bringing awareness to it whenever an employee is in need. Employee might not know who or where to turn to for help. Furthermore, they might be too embarrassed to ask.
If it’s not already been done, leadership and HR should host a townhall event to address the pandemic and bring awareness to mental health. This is a great way to let employees know they’re not alone and have support. Additionally, it’s a great reminder that there are resources and support available to them whenever they need it.
When communicating about an EAP, make sure to share that it’s a confidential program that requires no out of pocket expense from employees. It’s crucial employees know that there’s a safe space for them to go when they need it and how to access those resources. Thus, HR should also commit to implementing and frequently communicating mental health policies and resources available as well as making sure they’re easy to access and up to date.
Provide A Supportive And Empathetic Environment
When employees see leadership open up about what they’re going through and how, for example, the pandemic is impacting them, employees are more likely to open up and admit their own challenges. Since employees aren’t always comfortable opening up about their own personal problems, having them come forward for help makes it easier for HR to provide support and assistance. This is why it’s crucial to have buy-in from leadership because they set the tone for what’s acceptable and what’s not. If a supportive environment isn’t cultivated, employees are less likely to open up.
Ideally, management and leadership would spearhead this initiative without needing the guidance of HR. However, most managers and leaders require a nudge and guidance to start and maintain mental wellness check-ins with their team.
A mental health check-in might look like asking about how an employee is doing, how things are at home especially if they have children, a spouse working from home or are caring for others, and seeing how they can be supported. Based on the conversation and the employee’s responses, managers as well as HR can look at providing more flexibility for their day, educating and urging them to take advantage of the EAP, giving them a mental health day off or encouraging them to schedule walks throughout the day as well as boost their self care efforts.
HR should make it a priority to educate management and leadership on the importance of providing a supportive and empathetic environment for their employees and what that looks like. Additionally, HR should also be proactive about reaching out and checking in with employees themselves. Likewise, they should actively communicate the resources available to employees in which they may benefit.