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Why talking about mental health at work matters (and how to do it)

There’s more to taking care of your team than providing proper compensation, health care benefits, and a clean, safe work environment (although all of the above are important, too).

Mental wellbeing matters more than you think

There's a lot going on in the world right now, and at Foundations, we’ve been doing some serious reflecting on what exactly it means to take care of our teams moving forward.

We’ve come to the conclusion that mental wellbeing has to be a key component in everything we do. Because without it, our people are at risk.

We can do better.

Think your team is just one of the lucky ones? Studies show that one in four adults experience mental illness, and 18% of adults in the US have an anxiety disorder.

So whether or not you’ve noticed these problems at your place of business, it’s a pretty safe bet that mental wellbeing affects your team, especially given the current circumstances.

Taking care of mental health is a serious challenge for companies and employees.

And unfortunately, most people aren’t open about their issues with anxiety, depression and stress, and do their best to hide any problems that come up while they’re on the clock.

But for organizations to be able to offer support when and where their teams need it, employees need to feel like it’s safe to open up. In fact, research supports that feeling authentic and open at work leads to better performance, engagement, employee retention and overall wellbeing.

The problem is, you can’t help your employees with their mental wellbeing if they don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

 a woman gesturing across a table with water and salt and pepper shakers to people seated across the table. Talking about mental health at work matters. Create a space space to make the conversation easier.

@iamdarosaa via Unsplash

Creating a safe space for your team

Building a workplace environment where staff feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and needs, and working on their mental wellbeing won’t happen overnight.

Adopt and commit to these best practices, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a safe space where your employees feel included, appreciated, and secure.

1. Communicate.

Communicate. Then communicate some more. Make open communication between all departments and levels a priority. Promote honest (but polite) dialogue in meetings and gatherings so that all employees feel like they have a say and know that they’re valued members of a bigger team.

Follow-through on any promises made, and when things go wrong, take responsibility and say those magic words: I’m sorry. Communication is also a great way to strengthen company culture.

2. Build a relationship based on trust.

Ensure your team feel like they can count on management and the company to be fair and even-handed.

When employees trust their managers, they’re much more likely to ask for help when they need it.

According to the Harvard Business Review, one way to build trust with your team is to rely on them to do their work without excessive supervision (aka micromanaging).

3. Encourage employees to work on wellbeing during working hours.

Studies show that $4 is returned to the economy for every $1 spent on mental health. So invest in your team with wellbeing activities during working hours.

Bring in an expert for a conference day or give staff access to an online or app-based mental wellbeing program like Foundations.

4. Start a gratitude practice.

Express your appreciation with kind words when your people work hard, even if the results aren’t quite what you expected. Thank them for their effort and dedication before you refocus your energy on what went wrong and how to fix it moving forward.

Gratitude isn’t just a great way to create a safer space for staff—it’s a great motivator.

According to a study conducted by Glass Door, gratitude does more than make employees feel better about themselves and the jobs they do, 80% of employees are willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.

5. Encourage your staff to take their breaks, even on busy days.

And take yours too—leading by example is always a good idea. Besides, taking regular breaks is essential to better mental wellbeing at work and helps restore motivation for long-term goals.

For more on the science of why (and tips on how) to incorporate mental downtime into your work schedule, be sure to check out our post on how breaks affect mental wellbeing.

How is your organization offering mental wellbeing support for your team? Let us know at foundations@koahealth.com.