Making Mental Health a Priority at Work
By Kristine Penning, AgCareers.com
It should come as no surprise that you likely have at least one employee with some sort of mental health condition on your staff. And if it is not a surprise, then has your workplace made the proper accommodations so they aren’t suffering silently while trying to complete their tasks? Unfortunately, most workplaces, even today, have not made efforts surrounding improving the situation and work environment for employees living with mental health issues. It is often considered taboo, and employees are hesitant to even admit they may need help or special accommodations to manage their symptoms.
While challenging to confront, employers play an important and powerful role in offering support and championing mental health for their employees.
Promote Resources & Develop Programs
This is where you can get creative as an HR professional. Share available resources with your staff, such as benefit programs that allow for trial counseling or treatment. Or direct them to national organizations like the Farmer Crisis Center or the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). These are easy steps to take to make employees aware that you care and are aware. Create a bulletin board or simply send out an email.
I recently came across an interesting article about Corteva (formerly DuPont) implementing a program that encourages employees to reach out or offer help to coworkers that appear to be experiencing emotional distress. You can similarly educate your staff about how to ask appropriate questions that will help you help someone else that appears to be struggling at work.
Work-Life Balance & Flexibility
It’s important to encourage work-life balance to all employees, regardless of mental health problems, as it can often be a root of certain issues. When employees are experiencing workloads beyond their capacities and don’t spend enough time doing things outside of work that they enjoy like spending time with family, their mental health suffers. Cultivate a workplace culture that promotes work-life balance.
Furthermore, be sure that your organization is flexible in some ways to allow for employees to make doctor or counseling appointments to manager their mental health. If an employee feels like they can’t leave work for such reasons, they won’t get the help they need.
It’s okay to gently approach an employee if you find that their engagement or performance has suffered as of late. It may be very directly related to their mental health. Unsure about doing so? Make it anonymous. Put out an employee satisfaction or engagement survey with prompts to include open-ended responses. Or set up a suggestion/feedback box that employees can anonymously ask for help or change.
Just Be Kind
A quote by Socrates: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” If you do nothing else, just be kind. It costs nothing, and you will never regret it. It also might make all the difference to someone who is hurting deeply.