7 Ways to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

By Anisa Al Raissi

In Arthur Miller’s famous play, “Death of a Salesman,” the protagonist Willy Loman is a salesman suffering from crippling mental health issues. When he requests to work in his hometown for the sake of his well-being, he is shot down by his boss Howard. The play closes on a tragic note when Willy takes his own life.

Nothing more than this scene sums up the disconnect between leadership and employees in most organizations. Unfortunately, mental health is so low on the priority ladder that we are starting to see new work trends that will only worsen if not promptly addressed.

The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Mental Well-being in the Workplace

Since 2021, a record number of employees voluntarily quit their jobs – a phenomenon referred to as the Great Resignation, with 1 in 5 quitting or likely to quit this year. Not only that, but according to Gallup, 50% of employees have “Quiet Quitted,” which means that they have clocked out of work and abandoned all ambitious initiatives.

If this tells us anything, company leadership can no longer push mental well-being under the rug. Especially since, according to WHO, the negative economic impact of depression and anxiety alone on the global economy is one trillion dollars of lost productivity. Yes, you read that right, one trillion dollars!

Mental Health in the Workplace

A group of medical experts from The US Preventative Task Force recently recommended that all adults under 65 should be screened for anxiety disorders, signaling the alarming rise of mental health problems in the workplace. 

What can companies do to support the mental well-being of their employees?

1. Train leadership and HR to Recognize Symptoms of Mental Health Difficulties

It is challenging to recognize mental health problems if not trained to spot them, especially in a work culture that might look at them as weaknesses. How many times have you seen a movie scene that goes like this? A manager calls an employee to the office and lists their lack of enthusiasm, disengagement, and reduced productivity as reasons for immediate firing. The manager did not know these could be symptoms of mental health problems, and they had just sent this employee to the brink. This scenario will likely repeat itself in the workplace if leaders are not trained to spot and recognize the symptoms and tell-tale signs of mental health problems.

2. Provide an Empathic Work Culture 

Listening to your employees is one of the key ways of bridging employee gaps. Consider an employee who spends two hours commuting. He is missing out on valuable family time and is suffering from exhaustion and stress. A leadership that implements open feedback strategies through employee satisfaction surveys and frequent pulse surveys would spot this problem before it exacerbates further and offers this employee a flexible work arrangement. 

3. Improve Employees’ Experience

Many successful leaders are known to conduct walking meetings. Those meetings usually generate the best innovative ideas because the change in the environment creates creativity.

Take this as an example: A marketing company used to hold regular PowerPoint board meetings. Alternatively, they were advised to take their meetings outside. The marketing teams went on walks and took inspiration from the people and their environment. Holding outdoor meetings was a turning point in that company’s books. Their campaign tapped into the emotions of their customers, and they had an incredibly successful year. 

Walking meetings benefit both employees and leadership. On one side, according to Harvard Health Publications, they keep the mind sharp and healthy. On the other hand, they help bring out the employees’ creative sides. This, in turn, prevents employee burnout and quiet quitting. And all in all, companies benefit from increased productivity and customer awareness.

4. Have Regular Check-ins and Recognize Skills

A company we consulted had a disgruntled employee who had made several attempts at quitting. He was stuck doing projects he did not like or faced numerous turndowns when pitching ideas to the higher-ups. The new manager noticed some briefs on his desk after introducing a new strategy of checking in on employees. On any other day, she would have dismissed them as unnecessary work and given him a remark to focus on his assigned projects. But that day, she asked him to tell her more about those ideas because she had made the informed decision to listen to employees. That little gesture turned a new page for this company! The ideas turned out to be a goldmine in building brand affinity; the rest is history. 

The moral? Never underestimate the value of recognizing your employees, listening to their ideas, and rewarding their talents.

5. Have an Inclusive Work Environment

Ensuring that mental well-being has a clear place in the organization is key to any company’s success. A customer organization we partnered with had an incredibly gifted employee suffering from crippling panic attacks that made her day-to-day life impossible to bear. The company did not have any mental health transparency plans put in place at that moment. However, they did recognize the productivity losses they would encounter if they didn’t take matters into their hands quickly. They jumped to her support and offered her the proper guidance of a trained psychologist. Today, this employee is a success story who is endeavoring to eradicate the stigma of mental health problems in the workplace. 

Companies should follow this example by encouraging workplace transparency and free mental health consultations.

6. Make Work Meaningful

Studies show that people who find purpose and meaning at work are happier, more mentally resilient, and more productive. Unfortunately, most corporate leaders do not try to align the company’s purpose with employees’ personal goals, leading employees to experience heightened stress and re-question their place in an organization.  

Creating meaning starts by understanding the emotional level of your employees. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to employee experience. However, having hands-on leaders and breaking down silos are some ways to get there. 

Simple examples could be:

  • Delegating a low-level employee to kick off a meeting. This simple feat can do miracles for their self-esteem.
  • Rewarding employees with high engagement levels with a donation to their favorite charity. This will increase their feelings of validation, and they would most probably recommend the company to others.
  • Having employees connect with valued customers through one-on-one meetings will increase job attitudes tremendously.
  • Handpicking an outstanding employee to attend a high-level meeting or to be coached by their leader will heighten their loyalty.

Any act of human connection spells enormous business potential for the company while catering to employees’ mental health, engagement, and productivity.

7. Implement a Mental Well-being Strategy

Simply put, a mental well-being strategy is a comprehensive physical and psychological approach that drives organizational success. It utilizes tools that monitor and measure employees’ experience gaps and signs and symptoms of mental health problems such as disengagement and lack of productivity. This strategy enables organizations to be part of the new status quo, i.e., to be successful in a global society, you must put mental well-being first. The leadership can further solidify the strategy by promoting employee mental well-being in the company policies. Mental health is and should be regarded as important as physical health. Managers should establish tangible procedures and regulations to guarantee that their employees receive the help and support they need.

Mental Well-being is Key to Workplace Success

Mental well-being plays a considerable part in a company’s employability, reputation, and overall success. Companies cannot ignore the productivity losses that result from mental health problems. Recent trends of employees’ quiet quitting and collective resigning are symptoms of unaddressed mental health issues in the workforce. 

Get in touch with us today and discover how to integrate mental awareness into your EX strategy. Click here.