Category: <span>Organizational Mental Health</span>

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3 Simple Ways Leaders Can Promote Mental Health

When Your People Feel Unloved At Work 

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Mental health at work is a huge issue and it is not getting any better, statistics show that one in two employees are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. Here are some tips for leaders on how to promote mental health at work.

They Don’t Care

As a manager and employee, I have uttered those words and heard them multiple times (usually laced with explicatives) within well-established organizations. Leaders are tasked to ensure workers align with the mission and associated bottom line, not necessarily the human energy behind that and your people notice. 

When your focus is only on the capacity to produce, and the rate that can happen, with little concern for the mechanics of production (aka the humans that do the work), you will ultimately have employee’s that don’t feel supported and who ultimately conclude “they don’t care about us.” Have you ever been in a relationship where you no longer felt cared for? How did that work out? 

65% of people are looking for new jobs because they are unhappy

cnbc.com

The truth is people were unhappy, stressed, overworked, and disconnected from the mission pre-pandemic. According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, more days of work were lost related to stress and emotional health issues than many other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis.  Couple that with a year fueled with uncertainty, with plenty of time to reflect on personal needs and aspirations, with a dash of new demands and mandates, and it’s like folks have found their come to Jesus moment around their priorities when it comes to their wellbeing. 

Why Should Leaders Care?  

Ignoring Employee Wellbeing Affects the Company’s Bottom Line.  Executives are reporting seeing a higher turnover than usual, and they are bracing for worse. What does that look like when it comes to your pockets? According to Employee Benefit News, employers spend an average of 33% of a worker’s annual salary replacing just one employee. Let’s put that into perspective: It will cost $12,000 to replace an entry-level employee making $36,000 a year. It will cost $20,000 to replace a manager making $60,000 a year.

Just as costly is the employee who can’t jump ship but have left you emotionally. Some of the “invisible” costs to a company include absenteeism, or those who miss work because of emotional or physical health reasons (both are strongly tied together), or presenteeism- those who come to work and do everything but that because they are mentally and emotionally absent from work.   

We tend to talk about those half-life worker bees as “stealing time”; however, what if some of this is your team communicating to you that they are overwhelmed, underused, tired, and in need of attention?

How Can Leaders Respond to The Crisis of Mental Health at Work?

Work on cultivating a culture of caring that includes normalizing the conversation of mental health, assessing the needs of your employees, and implementing onsite and ongoing support. There is a false sense of comfort in tasking wellness to only Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to address workplace mental health concerns or health insurance because the reality is, it isn’t enough. Most EAP’s only cover approx six sessions, and finding a mental health provider with availability that takes your insurance is like performing a magic trick these days. So while those ideas are well and good, it shouldn’t be the only strategy to support your team.

3 Simple Ways Leaders Can Promote Mental Health

Value and Encourage Employee Input (aka Listen to your people)

I was in a meeting once being welcomed by executive leadership and everything was great- They sounded glad to have me on board and painted an open door policy and then I accidently asked, “so if I have an issue can I come to you directly?” to which the lights dimmed, her eyes glared, a wisp of cool air entered the room, and a professional no fell out her mouth.

I understand that there is a hierarchy to how we do things. However, if leadership is drawing a line between genuinely knowing what is happening in the lower ranks and positing themselves to respond, it is already creating an atmosphere for chaos. I walked out of that meeting thinking they don’t give a shit what happens, and they lived up to that with poor dissemination of information, limited support, and ineffective leadership. Guess who left that job?

As a leader, you need a strong voice and boundaries, but you also need to know when it’s time to listen. Employees who provide direct service are the lifeline of your organization. When you make decisions without them, and they can’t see themselves in your larger vision, it can easily lead to a more significant situation.  

This pandemic has called for the acknowledgment of listening as a critical skill in the health of an organization. Active and empathic listening will allow managers and leaders to ask questions that get to real concerns before it becomes costly issues. Creating space for engagement and dialogue fosters a sense of belonging and respect. It also gives you a chance to grasp innovative ideas of your best assets that will eventually contribute to your bottom line. Employees who are engaged and included are more likely to navigate stress and overwhelm and less likely to find a new job. 

Create Opportunities for Advancement

Humans crave progress. Your people need to feel like they are on a path that leads somewhere and are a part of a culture that reflects the changing times. 

Do you know the areas your team members need the most support or want to develop? Is it communication, navigating emotions, resolving conflict, or improving professional skills? Do you create space for them to spend time on that within their workday? 

Have you created space not just for continuing education, but critical conversations that serve to dismantle any race-based bias limiting upward mobility within your organization? We exist in one of the most diverse times in history and are at the intersection of our own beliefs, personal experiences, community trauma, and change. We can’t pretend that also doesn’t walk into your workplace every day and impact your staff’s emotional safety and productivity.

Respect Your Limits and Bring in Support

While there is a considerable shift in recognizing the role of mental health at work, leaders themselves often don’t know where to start and are uncomfortable with critical next steps. In this instance, it is worth bringing in external expertise that isn’t wrapped up in the company dynamics to effectively lend perspective, skills, and support. 

Investing in external support can seem costly; however, when weighed against the cost of losing staff expertise, intellectual property, onboarding, and what you are hemorrhaging from presenteeism, it’s a minor drop in the retention bucket. Investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good for business, fosters a safe workplace, and improves the health of employees and your organization.

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R, and Katiuscia Gray, LCSW-R, are Licensed Psychotherapists and Mental Health Consultants. They work in partnership with organizations and institutions like schools and universities to assess an organization’s emotional health designing customized mental health and wellness solutions.

Why Mental Health Plays a Role in the Success of Your Business

Mental Health is a workplace issue

Mental illnesses from a macro viewpoint are associated with higher rates of disability, absenteeism, and unemployment. Emotional experiences like depression and anxiety often interfere with a person’s ability to focus and complete tasks and have even been reported to reduce cognitive performance about 35% of the time. While the impact may not rise to the level of a clinical diagnosis for most workers, they are still susceptible to stress and burnout, seriously affecting their ability to contribute meaningfully in their personal and professional lives.

 

Data from several countries worldwide indicate that mental health problems are behind a considerable number of employees dropping out of work, particularly as we navigate returning to work post-pandemic. It’s the elephant in the room that can no longer be avoided, with Covid-19 having a lasting impact on the workforce. It was hard before, it’s a crisis now, and we are at a juncture that requires us individually and collectively to shift our work culture and prioritize mental health. 

Mental health was a massive issue in the workplace before the pandemic. It was hard before, and it’s a crisis now. 

 

Workplace Well-being

Mental health is something we all possess. When it is good, we have a sense of purpose and direction and feel that we can cope with whatever life (and work) throws at us. But just as our physical health fluctuates, so too our mental health. This is even true for solopreneurs or entrepreneurs, with one study out of the University of California finding that out 49% of entrepreneurs surveyed had at least one mental illness, and about one-third struggled with two or more conditions like depression and anxiety.   

Emotional challenges at work can contribute to: 

  •   Decreased productivity and performance
  •   Reduced engagement with one’s work
  •   Decreased physical capability 
  •   Poor communication with coworkers
  •   Increase in employer mental health spending with behavioral health claims responsible for a 20% increase in that area.

At any one time, at least one in six workers are experiencing common mental health problems (some studies have it as one in five), and it’s no surprise that these adults are tasked with dealing with their mental health in the workplace. Depression contributes to about 400 million lost workdays annually. Poor mental health costs US employers up to $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year, and within the UK, mental health problems in the workplace cost the economy approximately £70 billion annually. 

Good mental health enables not just the individual to thrive but the business. The WHO has estimated that for every $1 invested into the treatment and support of mental health disorders, business see a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.

 

Tips for Managers, Leaders & Colleagues

Some common signs that can surface in colleagues who are struggling with their emotional well-being:

 

1. They exhibit (or often talk about) physical symptoms, such as tiredness related to disrupted sleep or persistent headaches. 

2. Withdrawal from the team, more isolative.

3. Loss of interest in work, sadness, or constant worry

4. Noticeable irritability or conversely complacent 

5. Reference to increased alcohol consumption

6. Procrastination, indecisiveness, slowed productivity (missing deadlines and deliverables).

7. Absence may increase, or alternatively, they start to work much longer hours, starting early or staying late.

 

Employers are uniquely positioned to encourage employees to get help if they are experiencing issues with their mental health. Not only that, most workers want their employers to champion mental health and well-being in the workplace.

 

Employee/Self Care is Key to A Thriving Workplace 

Five small changes that can be made with little effort and improve employee well-being: 

1. Flexible hours. Discuss with your staff a reasonable plan to reduce their stress while navigating return post-pandemic. One size does not fit all.  

2. Enforce working hours. This can be done by limiting out-of-hours work and encouraging reduced email access outside of office hours

3. Increase supervision and team support: If possible, avoid employees working in a solely isolated way. If they are working from home extensively, make sure there are regular check-ins not just on work but also on challenges that impact the work.  

4. Share resources: Provide support services, share available resources like EAP information, child care options, and how to access staff members or consultants who have training in mental health and workplace stress. Make sure support is widely and regularly communicated. 

5. Promote self-care breaks: That may include reminders to eat healthy, group walks, or quiet time at the end of meetings. 

 

Other ways companies are investing in corporate wellness:

1. Changing company cultures – Get intentional about creating a culture of understanding and openness around mental health. This can mean HR programs taking steps to prevent burnout and build employee resiliency. It could also mean supervisors being mindful of and allowing employees to speak openly about mental health challenges or even implementing mandatory self-care time. Some companies have even implemented paid or unpaid mental health days from work, and staff is encouraged to utilize it before they feel overwhelmed or emotionally unwell. 

 

2. Incorporate a Wellness Menu – If wellness is not a regular part of the culture, invest in it. Progressive agencies are mandating self-care, and a part of that is providing options for staff to pick from during the workweek, such as the 30 mindful mornings or wellness workshops I recently facilitated at a Law Firm in NY. Other options include training on topics such as overthinking and productivity, stress and the body, or trauma-informed care. 

When the agency prioritizes care, it sends a message to the employee that your wellness matters, and that is often reciprocated back with increased productivity and a reduction in turnover. 

 

It will take all of us to help alleviate the impact of COVID-19 related stress and the emotional impact it continues to have on ourselves, colleagues, and communities. Our Mental Health Consultant Team can support you in your journey to promote workplace well-being and raise mental health awareness in the workplace or to personally develop yourselfGet in touch to find out more.

You can find additional resources from The American Psychiatric Association (APA)  here or when emotions are significantly impacting functioning refer colleagues to therapy here: Psychologytoday.com, Cliniciansofcolor.com, Therapyforblackmen.org, and Openpathcollective.com.

 

Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R, Psychotherapist and Corporate Mental Health Consultant

We Need To Talk: Gossip, Slander, and the Biased Water Cooler

Unless you are a woman you have NO idea what it’s like to be a woman building an empire and navigating the workplace! Don’t worry, we got you. Our talented list of panelists from the recent Protecting Your Mental Health in the Workplace Summit joined me to break it down. The first topic we unravelled with the help of author and therapist Kendra Hathaway,  was Gossip, Slander, and Toxic Relationships in the workplace. When the word, “toxic” is defined the words most commonly associated with it are: harmful, poisonous, destructive, and venomous just to name a few.  Although not only women experience these obstacles in the workplace we certainly seem to be well-versed in it. How many times have you been at work and overheard one employee complaining about the next? You have those that are loud about it and don’t care who knows what they are saying, and then you have others that are more hush hush about it and you may see them whispering as if you don’t exist. 

One thing that is true about both types is that the gossip spreaders are usually looking for attention or are trying to hide some type of pain. (There is another theory or possibility that we will consider in just a moment.) So now that we know what the problem is, let’s discuss how we can cope with such working conditions and figure out a solution. It is important that you pay attention to how you feel in situations, noticing if any negative thoughts and feelings come up for you, that’s a sign this is probably a toxic situation. This is a part of you protecting your mental health. If you stumble upon a co-worker being messy or you’re involved in a conversation that suddenly becomes demeaning or unproductive, walk away. Dismiss yourself, choose not to be involved. If you need to, take a moment to regroup and rid yourself of their negative energy. It’s ok to separate yourself from what is no longer serving you. If you feel strongly enough about the issue, confront the gossiper at a later time when you can engage in a calm conversation sharing your thoughts on gossiping about another coworker and be honest about how uncomfortable it made you feel. We have to take a stand for mistreatment in whatever form it shows up, including toxic communication, abuse, harassment, gender bias and racism in the spaces we exist in.   

Subtle manifestations of discrimination may significantly impact the everyday lives of women, the compiling effect of which may result in hostile work environments and distressed internal emotional states

Next, we unpacked Gender Bias in the Workplace. In the previous paragraph we discussed potential options as to why some employees behave the way they do and we mentioned that there could be another valid theory. Our next panelist reminded us to think about the beliefs that have been built into us. From birth people project their views and opinions of how girls are different than boys. A baby girl is rumored to cry less than a baby boy. Says who? As girls grow older we are taught not to speak or dress a certain way, what sport is lady-like, what toys we should play with and the list goes on. By the time we enter the workforce, we have so many rules inside our heads that we begin to doubt our abilities in our work space. Internally we are replaying all of the things we were told we should be as women, and unbeknown to us, our subconscious is keeping us tethered to the expectations of gender bias and we begin to acquiesce before our thinking brain kicks in with a conscious response. When you are presented with an idea or a situation and feel that hesitation, or fear, check in with your thoughts- “is this something you were told that you will not be able to accomplish? Do you believe the voices in your head?” Now take note of your response to others, particularly other women. Ms. Araika-Zawadhafsa Mkulo, Psychologist, shifted our awareness of our relationship to other women- “are we subconsciously sabotaging our fellow women co-workers based on biased views that were projected on us? Are we even conscious that we are doing so?” I want to encourage you to pause through your day and tune in to your relationship to yourself and others at work. 

Ask yourself what are you accepting in our own roles or in those around us that need to end? As Araika shared, be open to unlearn. What micro step can you take in this moment to shift that experience in the workplace? 

We have the unique opportunity in this day and time to change the narrative.

Notice the story you tell yourself. Where does it come from?

We live in a time where it is ok to speak up for yourself as a woman and ask for what you need. We no longer have to stand behind a man and wait to be spoken to in order to have a voice. Take risks, do things that scare you in order to advance in your career. Don’t allow yourself to feel as though you cannot be a wife, mother, and successful career woman. Those ideas are false and do not serve you. Ignore the Imposter Syndrome that makes you believe that you do not belong in places that you have earned your right to be in.

What have you been taught to be? Agreeable, beautiful, quiet, the parent, the responsible one? Is it showing up in your career and just isn’t working towards your success anymore? Let’s dive in together and get the work done together. That is the benefit to partnering with a women’s mindset coach to collaborate on healing and unlearning. We can have difficult conversations, model new expectations, challenge core beliefs, make core shifts, and become the best version of you. Sometimes you need that little nudge in the right direction to unleash your confidence, get clear on what you want to do with your life and implement strategies that work, as women and the organizations that support them. Are you ready to shift the narrative?

 

Amanda Fludd, Psychotherapist, Corporate Trainer and Women in Business Mindset Coach is here for your Mental Health needs. Sometimes you just need that professional nudge in the right direction to implement strategies that work.

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