Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

Worker helping construction employee

Workplace Mental Health in Rapid Decline

More than 160 million people are part of the U.S. workforce today, and the average full-time employee spends approximately half of their life at work. The COVID-19 Pandemic changed the nature of work for many, as well as the relationship that some workers have with their jobs. Nearly 39% of workers reported that their work environment has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2022 work and well-being survey. Employees with high levels of stress are more likely to miss work or show lower engagement and commitment while at work. Decreased production due to lack of employee engagement can negatively impact the organization’s bottom line. Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employee’s job performance and productivity, engagement with their work, communication with co-workers and physical capability to perform daily functions.

Employers Need to Take Action and Reverse the Trend

The first thing an employer should do is promote the importance and awareness of mental health and stress management at work. The action steps an employer should take include:

· Make mental health assessment tools available to employees.

· Offer free or subsidized medical screenings for depression or other mental health issues from a qualified mental health professional.

· Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket cost for depression medication and mental health counseling.

· Offer free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.

· Provide materials such as brochures, flyers, and videos to all employees about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.

· Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek help from a qualified professional.

· Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.

What Can I Do as an Employee to Improve My Mental Health at Work?

An employee who is struggling with mental health concerns at work, or an employee advocate for mental health programs has several different ways they can make a difference:

· Take advantage of the mental health programs offered to you by your employer. If these programs do not exist, encourage your employer to offer mental health and stress management education and programs.

· Set and work toward personal wellness, as well as work-related goals, and ask for help when needed.

· Take the time to reflect on positive experiences and express happiness and gratitude.

· Build and nurture real-life connections.

· Take part in activities that promote stress management and relaxation.

· Eat healthy, well-balanced meals and exercise regularly. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.

· Adopt behaviors that promote stress management and improve mental health.

· Be open-minded to the experiences and feelings of colleagues. Respond with empathy and offer support when appropriate.

· Share personal experiences with others to help reduce the stigma.

· Participate in training on topics such as financial planning, and how to manage unacceptable behaviors and attitudes in the workplace as a way to help others.

The Simple Solution to a Complex Issue

Mental health issues affect employers and employees alike. Employees suffering from untreated mental health issues at work are going to be less productive and will have a direct negative impact on the organization. “A healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations and healthier communities. As we recover from the worst of the pandemic, we have an opportunity and the power to make workplaces engines for mental health and well-being.” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, MD. States. The Surgeon General’s framework for mental health and well-being in the workplace is designed to encourage organizations to rethink, and strategize how they protect their workers from harm, foster a sense of connection among workers, show employees they matter and support growth. “Listen to their needs, increase pay, and limit communication on off-duty hours” are just some ways the Surgeon General suggests organizations can improve mental health at work. Developing policies and procedures supporting the mental health and well-being of all workers costs money, time and energy. The cost of failing to support employees’ psychological well-being is often much higher.

Amerisafe’s Occupational Health division offers a comprehensive range of health and wellness solutions with exceptional on-site occupational health care services, nutrition and fitness-based programs, chronic condition management, access to vaccinations, lifestyle intervention, physical therapy, mental health services, and more. Contact us to learn more.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support via phone or chat for people in distress, resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Includes information on finding your local crisis center. Visit the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website.

Written by Amerisafe Safety Advisor, Jon Monfredi, and reviewed by Amerisafe’s Safety Consultants.