How to foster a corporate culture that prioritizes mental health

Supporting employee mental health is no longer a benefit for companies, but rather a necessity for those wishing to retain their employees. Exhausted employees leave their jobs at alarming rates, and those who remain report that poor mental health has a negative impact on productivity.

Mental health struggles are prevalent withinning out the american workforce. While the vast majority of employees want a company that openly embraces dialogue about mental health, 50% still feel employers don’t provide enough mental health support. And when that support is lacking, the workers will leave.

Companies need to embed the concept of prioritizing mental health into the very fabric of their culture. Leadership buy-in, mental health training, and open communication are necessary to create a lasting work culture that supports and retains employees.

Get leadership buy-in

Prioritizing mental health in the workplace starts at the top. Employees look to their leaders for guidance, inspiration and approval. It is critical that HR and people leaders sit down with management to explain the business impact of prioritizing employee mental health.

Depression alone is responsible for approximately 200 million lost work days each year. Employees with mental health issues who report to work see their productivity drops. Low levels of productivity linked to mental health have a huge cost to the global economy — $1 trillion per year.

It is equally important to explain to managers and executives the benefits of making mental health a priority. Almost 60% of employees believe that managers who prioritize mental health improve engagement and retention. Make leaders understand that employers who retain their workers in the midst of a mental health-driven exodus will be the ones who take a proactive approach to mental health support.

Help management communicate clearly that mental health is a priority within the company. Employees would be worried about being perceived as vulnerable, and believe they can put their careers at risk if they discuss mental health issues with employers. Leadership can allay these fears by demonstrating awareness, compassion and openness about mental health. To get started, ask managers and executives to:

  • Help employees share their worries, anxieties, and challenges in one-on-one meetings.
  • Actively participate in mental health training and promote it to direct reports.
  • Offer employees benefits that strongly support mental health, including a manageable workload, a mental health boost, subsidized therapy, and regular visits with managers.

Management buy-in is the basis for any significant cultural change within a company. Once managers and executives agree on prioritizing mental health, the foundation is laid for a workplace that recognizes employee needs.

Provide mental health training

Implement mental health-themed webinars and workshops as a proactive approach to promote productivity and prevent employee turnover.

Mental health training can take many forms, so you should interview employees and managers directly to understand what they prefer and what they can benefit from the most. These preferences will help you decide if you want to hold weekly, monthly, or quarterly sessions, in-person, online, or both.

Through training, employees can learn about stress reduction and mindfulness techniques, whichh help prevent burnout. Managers, meanwhile, will be armed with the knowledge to help struggling team members, making them feel supported. Workers who feel supported by their employers are “more 5 times more likely to say they trust their business and “more than 3 times more likely to be proud to work [there]” – two excellent indicators of long-term employee retention.

Encourage conversations about mental health in the workplace

Open conversations about mental health help break the taboo that often characterizes the topic. Instead of a culture that promotes a “quiet” approach to mental health conversations, push employees into a safe space that openly discusses the topic and actively works to normalize it.

Encourage employees and managers to openly use the term “mental health” by leading by example. Incorporate the words into training sessions, company newsletters and meeting agendas, to help break the stigma. Integrating it into daily conversations further reassures employees that the company recognizes the importance of mental health in the workplace.