It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: the past couple of years have been challenging for us all. With the presence of the pandemic, a tough political climate, and a myriad of other social matters, it’s no surprise that 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health issues recently.
In addition to increased mental health concerns, thousands of others have been dealing with ‘pandemic fatigue’ and burn out, which is a general exhaustion or lack of motivation that (in this case) is caused by quarantining, work, and other factors. Overall, the past several years have been stressful and we’re all feeling the effects of it.
When someone’s mental health is suffering, typically other areas of their life are suffering as well – with one of those areas being work. According to a survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “56 percent [of workers] report that stress and anxiety have affected their productivity, 51 percent say it’s impacted their relationships with coworkers, and 50 percent say it has diminished the quality of their work.” Diving deeper, a report by Mental Health America shares how in particular, employees in the food + beverage, retail, and manufacturing industries report the highest rates of workplace-related stress.
As a manager, you’re responsible for the success of your employees, and that includes their physical and mental well-being. For that reason, it’s important to understand what some of the common symptoms of mental health-related issues are. Here are a couple tell-tale signs that someone you know is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression via healthline.com (read about more symptoms here):
- Decreased energy, chronic fatigue, or feeling sluggish frequently
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Loss of interest or no longer finding pleasure in activities or hobbies
- Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- Restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge
If you’ve noticed an employee has any of the above symptoms, it’s important to make sure they know they’re not alone. The best way to do so is to continually foster a safe working environment where people feel comfortable to express their mental health concerns. There are several ways to do so and depend on what works best for your business. Some of these include:
Consider modifying your training to include some type of mental health support. This might be coaching through difficult work situations, discussing de-escalation techniques (whether professional or personal), or offering open office hours to lend an ear. By investing in managers at an early stage, they can be pillars of support for employees and help notice signs of a mental health issue.
Even if you’ve created the most comfortable environment, some people will not be willing to discuss their feelings in a work setting or with their coworkers. Find a couple locations that are easily accessible to employees (especially if you’re in a remote-work situation) and provide resources like articles, websites, and phone numbers that can aid those dealing with various mental health issues.
Include it in benefits
Some organizations offer benefits that include telehealth options, which is especially useful during the pandemic. Telehealth includes “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration.”
Find out what’s possible for your business – and whether mental health support is already offered.
Help remove the stigma
A stigma is “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society has about something.” Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness, which can look like exclusion, silence, or dismissal towards people who have shared their experience. Because of this stigma, people with mental illness often feel ashamed and don’t seek the help they need.
As a leader, you can be a part of the change that helps remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. Check out some tips from MakeItOk.org on what you can say to help stop the stigma, but mainly remember to use your words and actions to show that it’s okay to be who you are, mental health issues and all.
Above all, one of the best ways to support your team is to genuinely care about their wellbeing. If you’re invested in their success – whether personal or professional – it will be apparent to your employees. Plus, simply having someone who cares about them might make all the difference.
Creating and growing a safe space at work takes work, and it may not happen overnight. But by prioritizing mental health, employees’ productivity will increase, they’ll feel more satisfied and engaged, and they’ll know someone is there for them. After all, don’t we all need a helping hand at one point?