Stress at work affects 83% of Americans and while all jobs have their stressors, if left unchecked these high levels of stress can cause reduced employee engagement and mental health struggles and this can have a direct impact on employee engagement at work.
What Does Employee Engagement Mean?
What do we mean when we talk about employee engagement? Many people assume employee engagement means employees feel happy or satisfied at work. However, this isn’t strictly true.
Employee engagement is when an employee feels emotionally committed to an organization and its goals. In other words, an engaged employee cares about the company they work for. They don’t just come into work at 9am, leave at 5pm and count down the days until their next paycheck. They are fully engaged and committed to the company and its future aspirations.
The Relationship Between Engagement and Mental Health
We can’t mention employee engagement without mentioning mental health. After all, there is a direct link between these two things. When an employee is struggling with their mental health they are more likely to be:
- Emotionally volatile
There are many signs and symptoms of mental health struggles and it is very likely there may be employees in your workplace who are silently struggling. So, it’s important to know your employees well so that you can note any changes in their behaviour that could signify a problem.
If you notice an employee who is showing signs of mental health issues and struggling with workplace engagement as a result, it’s important to be proactive.
How to Prioritize Employee Mental Health to Increase Engagement
The health and wellbeing of your employees plays a vital role in workplace productivity, engagement, and success. If you haven’t given this much consideration before, it’s time to prioritize employee wellness and mental health.
In America alone, one in 25 adults live with a serious mental health condition that significantly impacts their daily life. The cost of mental health struggles to an employer, through loss of engagement and productivity alone, is higher than most other health issues. So, providing the proper care and support for struggling employees is essential.
If you take the time to prioritize the care of your employees’ mental health, you will build a happier work culture, retain employees for longer, and see your company succeed as a result of high levels of employee engagement. But how do you prioritize employee mental health? Well, we have listed a number of very effective strategies you can utilize below.
1. Offer Mental Health Days
Mental health affects everyone differently and everyone uses different strategies to cope. What we can all agree on, however, is that sometimes you just need to take a day off. If you want to support your employees’ mental health and wellbeing in order to promote better engagement at work, you should offer mental health days.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a mental health day is “a day that doesn’t involve engaging with major sources of stress or frustration. It’s a day to relax, decompress and take care of yourself overall. If you notice that you’re easily agitated, physically or mentally exhausted, anxious or unable to focus, you could probably use a mental health day.”
Employers should recognize that offering mental health days is just as important as offering physical sick days. Taking a day out for mental health reasons ensures employees can return to work refreshed and better able to engage.
2. Provide Flexible Working Options
Allowing work-from-home days can make all the difference to employee mental health and engagement. Not everyone works best between the hours of 9am-5pm and many people find the noise and distractions of the office difficult for concentration. Mixing things up by providing flexible working options can make all the difference.
It shouldn’t matter whether your employees prefer to work from home, a bustling cafe, or a park bench. The most important thing is that they can choose where they work best and have the option to do so a couple times a week.
If you’ve noticed an employee becoming disengaged and detached from colleagues, it’s possible they could be struggling with their mental health and withdrawing as a result. Consider suggesting they work from home a couple days a week. Simply offering this flexibility can make all the difference in helping employees take charge of their mental health to more effectively engage with work.
3. Permit Time Off for Treatment
People experiencing mental health challenges often fail to seek the support they really need. So, when an employee approaches you requesting time off for treatment, this is something to celebrate!
If you want to increase employee engagement at work, you need to ensure everyone receives the treatment they need to succeed. Whether your employee is struggling with anxiety, PTSD, depression, burnout or addiction (to name a few) they may request time off ranging anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to seek the treatment they need.
Burnout is one of the more common causes of employees requesting time off work. “Experts have identified six key domains of a person’s life that are related to burnout.” According to LuxuryRehabs.com, “Stress within these areas may represent a risk factor for developing symptoms”:
Permitting employees time off to receive treatment is essential. Not only will this ensure your employees receive the help they need, but it will also encourage others who may be struggling to come forward and seek support.
4. Prioritize Clear Communication
Communication is one of the most important aspects of being an effective employer. According to the Corporate Wellness Magazine, “more communication about mental health benefits and resources means more people know about the care options available to them and can seek them out when needed.
Clear communication in the workplace is especially important when it comes to tackling mental health as it allows you to avoid misunderstandings, communicate care to your employees, and form healthy relationships in the workplace.
Often, we resort to emails or text messages during the busyness of any given day. However, these communication channels can make anxiety or mental health issues worse as it can be hard to read emotions behind the words on the page, which can often result in overthinking and high levels of stress – particularly from anxious employees. This is why it’s always best to communicate in-person where possible.
5. Destigmatize Mental Health at Work
While mental health issues are easier to spot in some people than others, it is essential you create a working environment where employees feel safe and supported, no matter what they are going through. Reducing the stigmas surrounding mental health is a great first step towards this goal.
To destigmatize mental health at work, we recommend running team training days or workshops focused on mental health, how to spot the signs, and how to offer support. Doing so can encourage struggling employees that it’s okay to seek the help they need.
According to Forbes, “mental health remains a stigmatized topic. If you’re a leader, you can influence mental health stigma through both policy and cultural change. Reducing mental health stigma is not only the right thing to do, it also helps people perform at their best.”
As you can tell, there is a close relationship between employee mental health and engagement at work. We hope that by following the strategies outlined in this article, you can make positive changes to your workplace that help increase employee engagement for the long term.
Courtesy HR Cloud. Article available here.