Employee Benefits

 The Value of Promoting and Prioritizing Employee Mental Health

By

Tiffany Gamblin

| Apr 11, 2018

Today’s businesses navigate an ever-shifting balancing act between productivity and retention of talent. In many workplaces, efficiency and output are paramount to compete in a fast-paced, globalized economy. However, retaining top talent is also crucial, and numerous employers regularly combat workforce shortages and additional expenses associated with turnover.

One way to maintain this balance is by recognizing the benefits associated with a mentally healthy workforce. An awareness of mental health benefits not only employees, but also the overall culture of the business. Conversely, if companies fail to recognize the importance of prioritizing mental health, they could potentially face increased absenteeism, performance lag and steep health care costs.

Why it matters

First and foremost, people make up a workforce. This may seem obvious, but in an increasingly competitive, “always on” business landscape, employees and leadership often both feel pressure to maintain a nearly superhuman level of output.

It’s true that employees produce innovative, useful products, invigorate the economy, and maintain goals and values that align with their workplace culture. But those same employees can also face a myriad of personal issues at home, such as substance or alcohol abuse, family stress and grief. According to a recent study from the National Institute of Mental Health, one in six U.S. adults lives with mental illness. Mental health issues don’t occur in a vacuum; employees who struggle with these issues at home can struggle with them at work, as well.

Using an EAP

An employee assistance program (EAP) is one resource business leaders can use to focus on their workforce’s mental health. An EAP is a voluntary program that typically allows employees access to confidential counseling services and referrals at no cost. Companies may provide an EAP through an independent counseling service, through life insurance as an ancillary benefit, or even with case-by-case services, such as an on-site chaplain.

Implementing an EAP is a step in the right direction; however, many employees may be wary of the stigma around receiving or even discussing treatment for mental health issues. Due to generational norms, you may find that your millennial employees are more comfortable asking about or accessing an EAP than your older employees. Workers of all generations may have a misconception that EAPs are only for seeking services to treat addiction, while others simply may not know about them at all.

Regardless, effectively communicating the benefits of an EAP and how to access them is key, and can help ensure your employees take advantage of them when needed. Posters displayed in areas like the restroom will encourage the employees to understand the purpose of the EAP, however, printed take away cards are a best practice to allow the information to be obtained discreetly.

 Making it a priority

Businesses that value the mental health of their employees need to communicate this priority to them. As with any successful initiative, this cultural emphasis should start at the top so employees feel empowered by leadership to prioritize their own mental health.

A few ways to do this include:

  • encouraging employees to take care of their mental health by providing resources like an EAP or inviting mental health professionals to wellness events
  • allowing for breaks during the day to allow employees to re-energize
  • providing communication regarding possible stress management tactics, such as getting a good night’s sleep, confiding in friends or family, and finding an engaging hobby
  • hosting a wellness fair to highlight local mental health resources

Also, it’s important to let employees know they always can contact a professional when necessary.

Prioritizing mental health not only helps businesses find the right balance between output and retention, but creates an open, authentic environment in which employees and employers feel comfortable to engage, innovate and grow. With the right tools and management support, a solid mental health initiative can be the first step toward a brighter, better future for your company.

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About the Author

Tiffany Gamblin

Tiffany Gamblin is an HR manager at Paycom. Since joining the company in early 2016, she has implemented innovative benefit strategies and communication, as well as developed and delivered an immersive “HR Leadership for Management” training program across the organization. A Senior Certified Professional (SCP) of the Society for Human Resource Management, Gamblin obtained her bachelor’s degree in 2013 from the University of Central Oklahoma and has more than eight years of HR experience in a generalist capacity, with a focus on benefits administration and HR training.

See more posts by Tiffany Gamblin