The month of May is considered Mental Health Awareness Month. As human resources professionals know, mental health has become a top priority for employees and continues to be a topic of discussion since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020.
However, a recent 2022 SHRM study reported the following:
- Only 46% of adults in the U.S. have access to mental health services
- Only 32% of HR professionals claim that mental health support is a priority for their organization
- Approximately 41% of HR professionals believe their organization is not offering enough mental health support
Thankfully, the news isn’t all dire. In the same study, SHRM noted the below:
- About 78% of employers currently offer mental health support or plan to in the next year
- Around 73% of organizations providing support include mental health coverage as part of employee health plans
- Approximately 73% of employers offering support provided employee assistance programs (EAPs)
It is great to see many companies and organizations putting employee mental health on their list of priorities. Yet, some companies may still struggle to actually provide the proper support to their team (21% of surveyed organizations cited a lack of resources as the reason behind their inaction).
To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, here is an actionable guide on how to discuss and support employee mental health. If you haven’t read our article on prioritizing employee well-being, you may want to do that first.
How to discuss employee mental health
At first, beginning discussions about mental health with your team may seem awkward or even a bit unwarranted. Nonetheless, your employees will likely appreciate the care taken by your team and it may allow for the opportunity to bring up important issues.
Be transparent but don’t call out names
Transparency is always an important aspect of communication between you and your team. When beginning discussions, let your team know it is because your team is looking to prioritize mental health and take action. However, if this action is being brought on by an employee complaint or situation, do not mention it to the full team.
A simple way to breach the subject can be done in the following manner:
As part of our initiative to prioritize employee satisfaction and happiness, we’ll be checking in with everyone to see how you are all doing aside from work.
Make it clear that care is being shown to the full team and the effort is being done for their benefit.
Let your employees know that they are welcome to share but are not expected to
Vulnerability at work is difficult. Employees may wish to share but some may choose to keep that personal information private. The best option you have is to let your employees know they can confide in you but that they are not forced to share.
Offering employees both optional group discussions or private meetings to discuss mental health can help to accommodate the different needs of your team and their comfort levels.
How to support employee mental health
Guide employees toward the proper resources
Naturally, you may feel empathic towards your employees’ mental health situations. You may also even be able to sympathize with them. However, it is highly likely that you are not the perfect resource to help them improve their mental health situation unless you hold a dual certification in mental health counseling as well as human resources.
When an employee does come to you for support, you will want to have an array of different options and resources available to help. If your company does not possess the proper funding to supply employees with mental health services, there are free resources available, according to NaturalHR.
Make employee check-ins a regular part of your routine
In this CNBC Make It article, Deborah Grayson Riegel, a management expert, suggests checking in regularly with your team as the state of their mental health is likely to fluctuate. What stands true one week is not necessarily going to be as accurate a few months from then.
Over time as these meetings become normalized in the workplace, your employees should naturally become more comfortable with this type of meeting and will become more likely to have an open, honest conversation with you and your team.
Wellness check-ins are for discussing mental well-being, not work
When conducting these employee wellness check-ins, the conversation should only revolve around their well-being. These meetings are not to discuss project status, even if it is more convenient at that moment.
Furthermore, these meetings should be “optional”. Not every employee is going to need that time every other week for check-in, but they should know that you will be available during that time if they need it. This may cause a bit of disruption in your schedule at first, but the benefits it will offer to your team may well make it worth it.
Discussions around mental health and well-being are not always fun conversations to have, but in an unpredictable world, they are certainly helpful. This May, we hope you and your team will be able to continue or begin, having these pivotal conversations with your team. For more informative articles, continue to check in regularly to BrandResumes’ HR Corner.