Of the many things that affect workplace health and productivity, employee mental wellbeing is often the elephant in the room. It is rarely mentioned, often stigmatized, but affecting a large portion of the workforce.
April is Stress Awareness Month and a great time to have your employees’ mental health top of mind. Consider this: more than 80% of employees say their stressed and it’s costing nearly $300 billion in lost productivity every year.
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Discussing Mental Wellbeing
So how can an employer, or employee, break the stigma around mental wellbeing? And how can it benefit everyone?
As it turns out, the benefits of discussing mental wellbeing openly and empathetically far outweigh keeping it concealed. During the winter time, when more people may be affected by SAD, can be an ideal time to discuss the importance of taking ‘mental time off’ to help those who suffer cope and manage their condition.
As many readers may be aware, mental health is an extremely important topic to keep in mind. Although physical wellbeing is often discussed openly, mental wellbeing is still often considered of secondary importance for many. However, psychological wellbeing is intrinsically tied to our physical state. As Ohio University notes, mental illness and stress from everyday activities can add up fast and can cause long-lasting physical damage on the body.
Of course, creating an environment that is comfortable with mental wellbeing can be tricky, but managers can start by using their emotional intelligence to help everyone feel more comfortable and confident.
How can Managers Help?
How can managers encourage their employees to come forward and feel comfortable discussing their mental state? The answer is simple: show empathy, and provide time for employees to discuss these problems privately.
In management, having a heightened sense of emotional intelligence can be extremely beneficial. As the University of Maryland notes, heightened emotional intelligence helps individuals navigate conflict easier, but also helps those individuals act more empathetically to their colleagues. When discussing mental wellbeing, emotional intelligence can help individuals empathize with those suffering and help them navigate through any emotional discussions.
On an individual level, showing empathy can help employees feel more motivated to do their best at the job, but at a broader level, this devotion to the mental wellbeing of the staff will have far-reaching effects.
For one, employees will feel more open to discussing problems with their managers – whether that be professional or personal. Managers will also be able to form a stronger bond with their employees, and understand when their mental state is affecting their work and how to navigate around that barrier.
The business will be more profitable from the increased morale, and more productive from the understanding of mental capabilities or roadblocks. The company culture will flourish in a more inviting and understanding environment.
So as winter winds up, consider the importance of mental wellbeing. Do the employees need a mental break after the first quarter? Are some struggling to make it into work, or struggling to work at all? Open up time to have these discussions with your employees, and be prepared to work around their mental roadblocks. The whole business will benefit from a bit of empathy and understanding.
Katie McBeth is a freelance writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. She spends her free time being the mother of three cats and a dog named Toby. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.