2021 is winding to a close and many companies are contemplating what 2022 will bring. Over the past two years, many employees have been tasked with adapting to an ever-changing set of workplace and new life conditions. Remote work, social isolation, work/life balance, and return to work plans have all added strain to an already stressful situation.
According to a 2021 study from the American Psychological Association, nearly three in five employees (59%) have experienced negative impacts of work-related stress, including a lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%), difficulty focusing (21%), and a lack of effort at work (19%). Stress and burnout are responsible for decreased productivity and are some of the top reasons employees seek positions elsewhere. Investing in the mental health of your employees is an investment in your company overall.
The first step to approaching a mentally healthy workforce is to promote awareness of mental health struggles. Companies are responsible for overcoming the stigma around mental health and illness. Managers and supervisors should be trained to recognize any potential warning signs or symptoms of mental illness. Employees should feel empowered and comfortable to seek mental health help. Regularly discussing mental health, and your own company's plans to promote it, should be the cornerstone of your anti-stigma process.
If an employee is faltering at work due to mental health issues, accommodations may help them perform their job more effectively. Accommodations such as adjustments to scheduled hours and break times provide greater flexibility for employees who may be experiencing symptoms or medication side effects such as fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Modifications to work areas such as sound proofing, visual barriers and increased natural lighting may improve concentration and limit distractions.
It is important that accommodations are made specific to the individual. Considering what limitations the employee is experiencing and how it is affecting their job performance is a great starting point for making an accommodation plan. All employees need to be educated on the purpose of these accommodations as they are meant to promote equity, but may not be equal across the board.
As we are finishing up 2021, it is a good time to reassess your company's health plan coverage to ensure that mental health benefits are up to par. Once the appropriate benefits are available, employees should be made aware of what those benefits are and how to utilize them. In addition to health plan coverage, wellness and health programs can also be utilized. These programs can be implemented in the office by trained managers or supervisors, or by health coaches brought in. Additionally, there are a host of applications for mindfulness, meditation, and mental health tips which may offer bundles for businesses looking to beef up their mental health programs.
Mental health benefits and programs are no longer a nice add-on benefit. For many, mental health benefits are something that are going to be expected. In 2022, successful businesses will be the ones that realize that poor mental health in their workforce will lead to less productivity and retention and increased absenteeism and liability.