In today’s rapidly evolving world, small business owners and corporate leaders are well aware of the challenges their employees face. Economic headwinds are impacting a growing number of industries and taking a toll on employees, all while we navigate the challenges of post-pandemic life. Couple this with the U.S. Surgeon General’s report highlighting the loneliness epidemic, and workplace stress is at an all-time high year-over-year.
An American Psychological Association survey revealed that, shockingly, less than a third of employees surveyed were offered insurance with coverage for mental health and substance use disorders. However, of those who reported that their employer does offer such insurance, 93% reported that such insurance is an effective mental health support. Not only should mental health insurance coverage should be available to all employees, but in order to make a true impact, business leaders need to do more in order to address the full spectrum of mental health consideration.
As the head of global behavioral health for the world’s second-largest employer, I focus on how to prioritize the mental health for our diverse workforce. Below are some actionable tips that CEOs and business leaders of all company sizes can leverage to place people first.
Promoting a Supportive and Inclusive Workplace
The key takeaway we’ve learned is that people managers genuinely care about their teams’ well-being, but may need guidance on how best to support them.
Business leaders have the power to equip managers with the knowledge and tools to foster a supportive and inclusive workplace. Here’s how:
• Normalize mental health care. Cultivate a culture that destigmatizes mental health issues and encourages open conversations. Offer accessible, evidence-based treatment options to support your employees’ well-being.
• Embrace feedback mechanisms. Implement routine employee feedback channels and foster a culture of one-to-one check-ins. Empower your managers to approach situations with empathy, collaboration and truth.
• Foster employee resource groups. Support and encourage the creation of employee resource groups dedicated to mental health awareness and stigma reduction. Peers can provide unparalleled support and guidance in navigating daily challenges.
Tailor-Made Solutions for Diverse Needs
Each organization is composed of individuals with unique requirements. A personalized approach to mental health support is essential to address the diverse needs of your workforce effectively. Amazon’s shift towards a self-service portal after gathering employee feedback highlights the importance of creating programs that address the full spectrum of employee needs.
Consider these steps:
• Seek employee feedback. Actively listen to your employees’ input to identify gaps in mental health support and develop relevant solutions. Empower them to be part of the solution.
• Equip your managers. Provide your managers with an awareness of mental health best practices and a comprehensive understanding of available company resources. They can serve as mental health advocates and offer guidance where needed.
• Offer flexible benefits. Design benefits programs that encompass virtual, in-person, and self-guided options for mental health support. Ensure accessibility for all employees, regardless of their circumstances.
• Uplifting your team with mental health advocacy. While managers play a crucial role in supporting employee mental health, it’s essential to remember they are not mental health professionals. Business leaders must equip their managers with the necessary guidance and tools. Consider these steps to empower your managers to be effective mental health advocates:
• Comprehensive benefits matter. Ensure that your benefits package goes beyond just counseling. Include resources for emergency care, self-guided tools, mental health awareness mechanisms, and adherence to evidence-based practices.
• Embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. Acknowledge and respect cultural differences, provide training and education, and foster an inclusive environment. Your mental health initiatives should be accessible to all.
• Offer user-friendly resources to access help easily. Empower your employees to take control of their mental well-being through intuitive and effective tools.
By prioritizing mental health and fostering a supportive environment, small to midsize business owners and C-suite executives can positively impact their employees’ well-being and overall productivity. In partnership with your team, you can change the trajectory of mental health in your workplace and beyond. Like the collective efforts in fire prevention that have reduced structure fires, together, we can shape a future where mental health support is timely, strategic and impactful.