The past year has left many of us feeling overloaded. Between politics, natural disasters, man-made violence and our own personal worries, it’s no wonder so many of us feel stressed out.
And these concerns don’t stay at home. For many employees, the added pressures at the office exacerbate this stress. But what can we do, as company leaders, to address the personal concerns of our employees, while still ensuring top notch work is being done?
There is no doubt that we rank employee health as a high priority, but do we focus enough on mental health? The mental state of our employees, much more so than coming down with the flu, has the ability to impact an entire company’s culture. It is increasingly important that we prioritize the whole person, and this includes what happens to our employees after they leave the office.
“It is increasingly important that we prioritize the whole person, and this includes what happens to our employees after they leave the office.”
There are a number of ways we can address these issues, to ensure healthy, happy employees in all aspects. These include:
1. Open Communication. Asking for a day off after a whirlwind few weeks spent meeting a critical deadline is understood, as a day to decompress is deserved. But asking for a day off to decompress due to other issues—be it workplace or personal—is often less accepted. There should be no shame in employees recognizing when they need a break, and asking for one. The alternative is dire—stressed out employees who don’t feel comfortable asking for what they need, resulting in subpar performance, and ultimately leaving the organization.
2. Mental Health Days. One approach is the idea of mental health days—days off that help your employees clear their head, in whatever sense they need to. Whether organizations provide specific mental health days or if they are part of total sick days, it’s important to encourage a culture of transparency where employees, if they want to disclose that they’re taking a “mental health day,” feel safe enough to do so. The acceptance and encouragement from leadership in individuals asking for what they need will hopefully lead to being able to communicate whether the stress they’re feeling is related to the workplace—and if so, how to solve any underlying issues.
3. Supportive Team. Not everyone wants to get into personal issues, nor do their colleagues always want to hear these details. That does not, however, mean that team members can’t be supportive of an employee who needs to take a day or more off to address issues that are affecting their well being. This starts at the top; when a team leader shows support, or even takes these days themselves, understanding becomes contagious.
4. A Healthy Culture. Ping pong tables, free snacks and happy hours are all great perks for employees, but these don’t guarantee happy employees. To ensure you are creating a healthy culture, take the time to ask employees what perks would make their life better. Perhaps it’s a gym membership, access to online counseling or more flexibility when it comes to hours in the office. Often, little things can make a huge difference in creating a happy and healthy workplace.
For any size organization, recognizing both the individuals and the larger needs of your employees is imperative. This time of year it can be critical. Take the pulse of your people, and make sure they are taken care of this holiday season.