13 Strategies to Address Mental Health in the Workplace

As an HR leader, elaborate on one strategy your company is applying to address mental health in the workplace?

To help you address mental health in the workplace, we asked HR Leaders and CEOs this question for their best strategies. From partnering with the Nation Council for Mental Wellbeing to hiring internal coaches to support employees, there are several strategies that you can adopt to address and support mental health initiatives in the workplace.

Here are 13 strategies to address mental health in the workplace:

  • Partner With the National Council For Mental Wellbeing
  • Provide Firm-wide Quarterly Sabbaticals
  • Offer Training That Builds Empathy and Compassion
  • Be Consistent and Transparent in Communication
  • Make Employees Feel Comfortable Taking Time Off 
  • Subscribe Employees to a Meditation App 
  • Be Deliberate About Giving People Time Off
  • Make Mental Health Resources Easily Accessible
  • Host Self-Care Training Workshops 
  • Practice Vulnerability and Build Belonging
  • Celebrate a Mental Health Month
  • Commit Culture Change
  • Hire Internal Coaches for Employees

Partner With the National Council For Mental Wellbeing

Utilizing the Mental Health First Aid at Work program, we will be partnering with the Council to offer their four-pronged program: Executive Overview to familiarize the most senior leaders with the framework; General Awareness, a general workshop for all employees; Mental Health Essentials, quarterly brown-bag sessions that are customized to the needs of our community; and finally, MHFA Certification which certifies employees to serve as Peer Counselors to their colleagues. The entire framework has been peer-reviewed and recognized in 24 countries, and is growing in stature and reach. We are very excited about this collaboration and confident that it will bring even more support to the workplace.

Angela Cheng-Cimini, SVP, Talent & CHRO of Harvard Business Publishing

Provide Firm-wide Quarterly Sabbaticals

One of the most common strategies to support people and create designated time for rest and reset are through quarterly sabbaticals.

These sabbaticals take place the same 3-days each quarter, org-wide. This requires that we communicate to clients in advance so avoid business disruption. This also addresses the often unspoken challenges in "time off" when there may not be appropriate coverage from team to team. With everyone being out of office, there is a general understanding and respect experienced by all -- across role, title, and tenure.

This time is often used for vacations, hobby exploration, volunteering, and simple rest & reset. The practice is growing in popularity across industries and sectors as organizations seek to mandate time off to address burnout and employee fatigue.

Chelsea C. Williams, Founder and CEO of Reimagine Talent Co.

Offer Training That Builds Empathy and Compassion

One strategy being applied at Vera French Community Mental Health Center to address mental health in the workplace is the offering of training in various areas to reduce burnout and increase skills in empathy and compassion for all staff. We are very aware that our staff can suffer from compassion fatigue and wear the trauma of the clients we serve.

Offering training sessions in various formats, locations and times of day have allowed more staff to participate in areas that interest them. Some training is classroom-style lectures focusing on cultural competencies and trauma, while others include more of a self-focus such as yoga and crafting. This approach has allowed for multiple disciplines to be trained across the agency and encourages communication and engagement across departments.

Shelly Chapman, Director of Human Resources of Vera French Community Mental Health Center

Be Consistent and Transparent in Communication

The world is a very difficult place right now and your employees are complex humans living a full life. One of the best things managers can do to support well-being, including mental health, in the workplace is to create consistency and transparent communication with their teams.

It's easy to get sidetracked by the to-do list but it's crucial for managers to keep routine meetings and availability, and to communicate in advance when change is coming. When people feel supported and informed, they can focus on the work with less worry that something could pop up and derail their progress at any second. If work can be a place where expectations are known, information is freely shared, and time to process change is provided, you will have a more engaged culture that better supports total wellbeing.

Andrea Herron, Head of People at WebMD

Make Employees Feel Comfortable Taking Time Off 

In my business, we know communication is paramount to mental health. But we don't just talk about it; we support good mental health. For example, I took a week off recently and my boss sent me a Slack that Friday. I got back to the office and he thanked me for not responding that day. I knew I could enjoy a week away with my family and I didn't have to feel guilty for taking time off This is practiced all throughout the company.

Ben Eden, HR Executive Coach at Reach Your Ultimate Potential

Subscribe Employees to a Meditation App 

As an LICSW and HR leader working for a healthcare organization that provides behavioral health services to our patients, we are uniquely placed to care for the mental health of our employees. At Harbor Health Services, we recognize that our mental health has been impacted by unprecedented challenges over the past few years. The pandemic has undoubtedly led to increased isolation and anxiety and has taken away many of our most common healthy coping mechanisms like social connections and community. Tragic global and national events have also weighed heavily on our employees.

In 2020, we began offering our employees a subscription to a meditation App. We believe that mindfulness strategies and meditation to improve sleep, reduce stress, and improve focus can offer our employees some comfort in these challenging times. We have used this App to start meetings with breathing exercises and regularly communicate strategies and tips to employees about improving mental wellness.

Rachael Cooper, VP, Human Resources at Harbor Health Services, Inc

Be Deliberate About Giving People Time Off

Between a pandemic that's caused illness and loss among employees and their families, employers know their workers might be struggling emotionally. I've seen a real, thoughtful expansion of the definition of "sick leave" among my clients to cover mental health issues. And not just diagnosed illnesses like depression and addiction. We're seeing companies give time off to people who are unhealthily stressed, or overly anxious about the events of the world.

A lot of employers are being very upfront about encouraging employees to use their time and asking senior managers to lead by example. We know there's still a lot of shame associated with mental health issues. So when a corporate Vice President sends a note to her team saying, "Everyone, this past week's been a lot for me - I'll be taking a mental health day tomorrow" it makes folks think "Wow, I thought it was just me. Next time I'm feeling overwhelmed, I'll take a day to regroup, too."

Nina Habib, Founder and Principal at Colleague LLC

Make Mental Health Resources Easily Accessible

At Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, all employees and their families have access to free visits (per issue) with our Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), and unlimited resilience and Mindfulness benefits on our benefit portal and app. For those on healthcare benefits, we also offer in-network, out-of-network, and virtual behavioral health benefits through our medical insurance provider.

As servant leaders, we want to meet our employees and their families where they are most comfortable. So that our families can join at their optimum time, our Mindfulness benefit offers virtual, on-demand, and call-in options. Employees have reported that early intervention helps them identify and work on personal and professional issues as a first step and they use additional options if they require further care.

Raegan Downing, People Operations Director, Talent Acquisition at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health

Host Self-Care Training Workshops 

As a non-profit community behavioral health provider, our agency is acutely aware of the importance of mental health in the workplace. Our staff is in a unique position in which they are providing mental health support to their clients while also experiencing their own mental health needs as well. 

One strategy we use is providing ongoing, interactive training sessions specifically addressing self-care for behavioral health workers, conducted by our licensed counselors. Any of our staff can attend as needed and are provided with strategies, additional support, and resources to assist them in caring for their own mental well-being.

Amy Giesecke, Human Resources Director at New Horizons Mental Health Services

Practice Vulnerability and Build Belonging

As a behavioral health company, we understand mental health and its importance in the overall well-being of our employees. In the workplace, we believe that full, authentic participation depends on vulnerability and psychological safety. Leaders share their mistakes and lessons learned, and we encourage our colleagues to ask for help when they need it. We identify and communicate what individual behaviors show up for us when we are struggling, and make time at the beginning of meetings to check in with each other. We build belonging by welcoming new teammates with intentionality and finding common ground with each other. Creating deeper connections with each other enables us to give and receive support when we need it.

Erica Strope, SVP, People Operations at Lightfully Behavioral Health

Celebrate a Mental Health Month 

Our Agency implements a Mental Health Month every May. We do fun activities throughout the month: crafting lavender-filled bags for aroma therapy, making stress balls with balloons and sand, having lunch and learning where different mental health topics will be discussed.

This month sets the tone ensuring that our employees not only feel supported but have tools throughout the year to deal with daily stressors. We also promote a work-life balance by providing snacks to ensure employees are taking their breaks. We offer flex and hybrid work schedules to our employees as well.

Nicolle Cockrell, Senior Human Resource Analyst at Tri-City Mental Health

Commit to Culture Change

Ultimately, supporting mental health in the workplace cannot be achieved without a true commitment to culture change. Even employees at companies with the best mental health benefits won't take advantage of them if they don't feel that a culture of support exists due to fear and stigma. This includes a combination of top-down efforts like transparency and vulnerability from leaders, accountability mechanisms, and workplace training and advising, as well as grassroots efforts like employee resource groups and mental health champions or peer listening programs.

Kelly Greenwood, Founder & CEO of Mind Share Partners

Hire Internal Coaches for Employees 

The events of the last several years have made intentional workplace mental health programs a necessity. Recent research shows 81% of Americans are burned out, with Forbes finding 98% of HR professionals feeling that, Deloitte finding that 70% of executives are considering leaving for a position that better supports wellbeing, and LifeWorks finding that managers have worse mental health than employees - the toll on all of us has been great.

To support individuals and organizations, we must find the strategies that are not only good for business but the right thing to do. The Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health assessment gives companies a holistic view of how they're responding to the needs of employees, and having employees who are Mental Health First Aid certified supports those efforts in times of crisis. Hiring internal therapists and coaches for employees at all levels to access anytime ensures that employees have someone to go to for quick and relational support.

Jenn Toro, Founder & CEO of Spark & Sage


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