More than a trend: How to build a company culture that prioritizes mental health year-round

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  • Date posted

    Oct 21, 2021

When employees thrive, so do their companies. Now more than ever, employers are seeing the benefits of destigmatizing conversations around mental health. On the flip side, they are also seeing the consequences of sweeping those conversations under the rug.

$1T

The global cost of lost productivity due to depression and anxiety disorders.

Up to 80% of adults will have a diagnosable mental health disorder in their lifetime—making this an issue that impacts most employees. However, due to low self-identification rates, few people will seek treatment for their symptoms.

The more employees are honest with their leaders—and the more leaders are willing to listen—the higher likelihood a company has of building a thriving culture based on mutual support and understanding. And while the fear of getting too personal, or the general stigma surrounding mental health, can keep leaders from broaching the topic, studies have shown that most U.S. employees actually want their employers to discuss mental health at work.

60%

of U.S. employees have never discussed mental health at work.

86%

of U.S. employees say it's important to focus on mental health in company culture.

So, what does a culture of mental health look like? And more importantly, how is it achieved? Incentives and short-term motivational tools (like massages or wellness stipends) are excellent tools for promoting a culture built around mental health. To make these benefits last, and to fully integrate them into your culture, employers should also cultivate a people-first mindset that continues 365 days a year—not just during a mental health crisis or national holiday.

Here are a few ways you can create a culture built on mindfulness, mutual understanding, and mental health support.

Provide benefits that acknowledge and support the whole person

At Navigate, we believe in providing resources to support all the parts of life that make people healthy, happy, and whole. This goes for our clients as well as our own Navigate family.

Many factors have the power to impact someone’s mental health. So, whether it’s their financial state, physical activity level, genetics, or a plethora of other things, it’s important for companies to provide impactful support and benefits personalized to their employees' needs—and to talk about those benefits openly.

Many employees are either unaware of the mental health resources offered at their organizations, or they are afraid to use them…One way to ensure every worker is aware of these benefits is to talk about them, and any policies that support them, during employee orientations, as well as periodically each year.

Whether or not someone wants to disclose their mental health diagnosis, leaders should publicly acknowledge that these issues do exist and communicate their willingness to provide support or accommodation.

If you’re looking for more ways to provide valuable mental health support to your team, our friends at Total Brain and BurnAlong play a key role in helping our clients strengthen their employees’ mental (and physical) wellbeing.

Transform leaders into mindfulness and mental health allies

As with any cultural change, company leaders have a substantial ability to impact and influence their teams. When managers and executive leaders are honest about their experiences, it conveys a powerful message that these types of conversations are not only tolerated but encouraged.

There is still a stigma around discussing employee mental health conditions. Yet the pandemic has created an unexpected opportunity for more open and supportive conversations between HR, employees, and senior leadership.

When leaders speak up about their own mental health, it cultivates a culture of support and transparency that can ripple throughout the entire company to create a more holistically healthy organization.

Performing simple, authentic check-ins can also be a powerful tool for understanding your team’s mental health. Company-wide surveys—like our Navigate Pulse Surveys—are an excellent way to collect this data. With a survey, employees may feel more comfortable answering authentically knowing their identities will remain anonymous. This allows employers to gain a clear picture of the organization’s culture (in relation to mental health) to inform strategic company goals and decisions.

Invest in basic education and training

In the wake of the pandemic, it’s never been more important for workers to recognize, acknowledge, and address mental health in the workplace. This is true for all employees, but especially for managers.

13%

of adults report new or increased substance use due to coronavirus-related stress.

38%

of remote employees are more likely to say burnout has worsened throughout the pandemic.

76%

of workers indicated that companies should be doing more to protect workers’ mental health.

With mental health concerns on the rise, leaders should be equipped with basic tools to navigate potentially difficult conversations, understand the impact of a mental health diagnosis in the workplace, and respond to employees who may be struggling. It's also important for companies to recognize how mental health and DEI are intertwined.

42%

of women and 35% of men report being burned out in 2021, versus 32% and 28% last year.

3x

Anxiety and depression symptoms have more than tripled since 2019, with black Americans shouldering the heaviest burden.

2x

as likely. LGBTQ+ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual people to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime.

In general, women and minorities experience mental health illnesses on a larger scale compared to males, heterosexuals, or Caucasians. Understanding these statistics will help inform your overall mental health (and potentially your DEI) strategy.

Building a culture that supports employee mental health year-round requires time, energy, research, and empathy—but it is possible! Mental health in the office is a defining issue of our generation and will likely continue to play a key role in the American workforce for years to come. From the top-down to the bottom-up, every employee has a role to play.

Find out how you can strengthen the success of your mental health initiatives with the help of personalized employee resources.

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