Once upon a time, occupational stress was less acute. But now work and life are necessarily interwoven, with 45% of employees experiencing a chronic feeling of “nervousness or anxiety” and millennials reporting higher levels of stress than older generations. Long nights at the office, Pop-Tart binges at desks, weekend phone calls – these days the whole workforce is on edge. Where is this stress stemming from? With the 2008 economic upheaval, downsizing, layoffs, mergers and bankruptcies, many employees are anxious that they could lose their jobs. Amid these pressures, many workers must face new bosses, possible sexual harassment, occasional hostility, computer surveillance, fewer health and retirement benefits, and the feat that they have to work longer and harder just to exist comfortably.
Never before have we needed to take measures to ensure workers are happy and healthy mentally, but it’s truly THE issue of the decade. With statistics showing that 1 in 4 adults has a diagnosable mental health disorder, it is time for us to be more proactive in our workplace policies.
Be aware of warning signs
These days, many employers read employees’ lack of performance/attendance as a flight risk threat when, in reality, this may be a symptom of declining mental health.
Are any of your employees displaying the following traits?
- Consistent late arrivals or frequent absences
- Declining stamina or concentration
- Low morale
- Lack of cooperation
- Inability to work with colleagues
- Decreased productivity
- Increased accidents
- Frequent complaints of fatigue or unexplained pains
- Problems making decisions or remembering things
- Missed deadlines/poor work
- Decreased interest or involvement in work
If you notice these symptoms in any of your employees, it may be time to start developing initiatives to improve staff wellbeing in the office.
Some such initiatives may include:
- Adequate Mental Health Coverage– First and foremost, it’s good to provide employees with access to an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), a work-based intervention program designed to identify and assist employees in resolving personal problems (like marital, financial, or emotional problems; family issues; or substance abuse) that may be adversely affecting the employee’s performance. Even more important, though, is providing employees access to robust health insurance with adequate mental health coverage, including outpatient and inpatient treatment, telemedicine, medications, and counseling. Each of these can be vital when it comes to treating mental illnesses.
- Work-Life Balance– Everybody knows that mental wellness and a good work-life balance go together like peanut butter and jelly. Because so many workers are torn between juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships and family responsibilities, and squeezing in outside interests, companies with special initiatives designed to alleviate a bit of this stress are highly sought after. Some of the best work-life balanced companies implement childcare services for busy parents, encourage vacations, discourage work outside of company hours, permit unpaid time for life events, and/or allow for schedule flexibility.
- Flexible Work Hours– Flexible work (telecommuting, flexible scheduling, part-time professional roles, and freelance jobs) greatly affects well-being when it comes to work, stress, and mental health. Companies with flexible work options are very appealing to prospects, AND it has been proven that flexible work options have zero negative effect on workers’ output work quality.
- Comfortable Workspace– One way to alleviate stress and improve workers’ mental health is to maintain a clean and organized office – with plenty of space and quiet acoustics that allow for concentration. Other important office elements include:
- Ergonomic desk and seat options are essential for reducing the odds of injury.
- Live plants provide better air quality and have many psychological benefits.
- Proper lighting can make or break a workplace. Of course, natural light is most ideal, but if your office doesn’t have that option, consider purchasing a full spectrum light.
- Healthy Snacks– Many studies suggest that a healthy diet is protective, whereas an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety. And, with the uptick in vegan options at companies around the world, a great and simple way for companies to stand apart is to have healthy snack and cafeteria options for employees.
- Mindfulness Training– Mindfulness training has been shown to help reduce stress, increase productivity and generally improve the performance of an organization's workforce. Whether it be weekly meditation practices, a mindfulness training program spanning a few months, or even a company retreat, this may be an ideal way to center, balance, and unite workers in your office.
- Fitness Programs or Stipends– Obesity is a major issue plaguing today’s workforce. Regular exercise fights obesity, combats stress and helps prevent the three leading health-related causes of death: heart disease, cancer, and stroke. But when your employees hunch, for hours, over their computers and sit through long commutes, they are on a potential trajectory toward developing major health problems. One way to reduce your health care costs is by implementing health promotion programs (or at least fitness stipends to cut down on gym membership costs) into your workplace culture. Companies with these fitness programs have, remarkably, slashed their health care tab by 20 to 55%, cut short-term sick leave by up to 32%, and amped productivity by up to 52%.
- Foster Friendships – Office get-togethers and events are a perfect way to get your office vibe-ing. It’s been proven that employees are happiest when they work with friends. Friendship is a crucial element in protecting our mental health; connecting with people boosts moods and morale. Friendships provide employees with the emotional and psychological strength to deal with whatever comes our way – whether it’s an exciting opportunity, a challenge or a crisis. And, if employees are already spending most of their time with their coworkers, why not make the most of it?
Are you an employer, recruiter or HR professional hoping to learn more about how to attract, engage, and retain top talent? Salary.com offers the broadest and most complete set of data coverage, pricing, and consulting resources available today to help your business develop balanced, equitable, and competitive total rewards programs. Book a demo today.