13 Ways To Support Employees Mental and Social Wellness

During times of significant stress, employees turn to their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). 

As an HR professional, give one way you can ensure that employees' mental and social wellness is sustained?  

To help you with the health and wellness of your employees, we asked CEOs and HR managers this question for their best advice. From encouraging pulse checks to providing access to financial education and tools, there are several insights that may help you ensure the mental and social wellness of your employees. 

Here are 13 pieces of advice for employee mental and social wellness:

  • Encourage Pulse Checks
  • Incorporate Systematic Time Offs
  • Demonstrate Care and Empathy
  • Embed Wellness And Mental Health into Manager Development
  • Create a Sense of Belonging at Work
  • Show Interest in Employees’ Home Life
  • Commit To Organizational Justice
  • Create a Support System of Caring Relationships
  • Value and Implement Employee Feedback
  • Allow for a Flexible Workplace
  • Curb Stigma Against Mental Health
  • Make Room for Flexible Work Hours
  • Provide Access To Financial Education and Tools

Encourage Pulse Checks

Although remote work has taken center stage, 2020 proved that human interaction is essential in our daily living. Commit to team lunches or an in-person gathering of some kind; grab every opportunity you can to connect with your employees. 

Ensure your staff is aware of the benefits provided by your EAP vendor(s), which, if utilized fully, provide a plethora of tools (mental therapist, will writing, locating child or elder care services, etc.) to aid in your daily living. Encourage them to use these services, which may be provided by one or more of your healthcare vendors, and provide up to five visits for free! 

Shaniqua Cole, Director of Human Resources & Company Culture at Professional Photographers of America

Incorporate Systematic Time Offs

When employees fully disconnect from work for vacation or leave, leaders must create a system to ensure the company and the employee have good boundaries. We require all staff to use an out-of-office message that communicates to us that they are gone, that they will not read that email - it will be deleted, that if we really need them to see that email, then we should resend it on (insert the date they return to the office), that some other person can help in their absence. 

Then, when the employee returns, they must meet with their team to review what happened, what they missed, screen share, and show their team that they deleted all their emails that arrived while out of the office. Without this system, staff would not take a vacation or would work on their vacation because of the volume of email they received. That was not good for anyone!

Chris Dyer, Founder of PeopleG2

Demonstrate Care and Empathy

While we present the "professional" versions of ourselves at work, there's so much more to our identities (brother, son, husband, runner, musician, etc.). By asking questions within the Family, Occupation, Recreation & Dreams categories (FORD), you gain a deeper understanding of your colleagues' backstories. When you acknowledge the experiences that they've been through, you create an atmosphere of empathy that makes them feel seen and heard.

Rob Lawless, Founder of Robs10kFriends

Embed Wellness And Mental Health into Manager Development

HR professionals who actively support managers and leaders have the responsibility of shining the light on the current landscape of mental health at work and offering flexible solutions to meet a diverse employee base. 

Manager development programs should incorporate well-being best practices and educate on signs of burnout, how to support employees in flex workspaces, and Org-wide benefits/resources. HR professionals may host a series in partnership with a licensed psychologist or mental health professional and ensure both a session recording and resource list that can be accessed at any point by any employee.

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

Create a Sense of Belonging at Work

HR leaders should start by identifying whether the people managers within the organization are treating their employees equitably. Employees want to feel valued; they want to feel heard; they want to feel like they can be who they are at work; they want to feel included. And there is an emotional impact to being excluded. 

It is critical to create the kind of environment where employees feel mutual respect, can share opinions, have conversations, and feel like they can have an impact through the work they do. The world is shifting, and it needs to. Make sure you’re helping your people leaders and people managers shift to be more inclusive, too.

Kelly Lockwood Primus, CEO of Leading NOW

Show Interest in Employees’ Home Life

I was fortunate enough to learn early in my leadership journey that the concept of an employee having a "work life" and a "home life" was doing the workforce a disservice. Rather, it begins and ends with one person. As a leader, my experience has proven time-and-time-again that seeking the individual first will provide far more in the way of business results than it will by reversing the order (i.e., business first, then people). The outpouring is  all the elements that lead to the most successful teams, specifically a foundation of trust and the commitment to shared goals.

Chris McKinney, Chief Human Resources Officer of Sprint Mart

Commit To Organizational Justice

Perceptions of organizational justice directly influence employees’ mental and social wellness. Organizational justice refers to perceptions of fairness within a company – fairness of the organization’s behaviors, decisions, work procedures, and actions. 

Three forms of organizational justice shown to impact employee mental and social wellness are distributive justice (outcomes), procedural justice (how procedures are implemented and practiced), and interactional justice (interpersonal transactions and the degree of dignity and respect afforded to an employee). 

The extent to which people are treated with justice in the workplace predicts their health and wellness, independent of established work stressors. Recognizing that perceived low organizational justice has been shown to increase the risk of mental distress, psychiatric disorders, and poor self-rated health status, organizations must prioritize organizational justice as a strategy to ensure employees’ mental and social wellness.

Nicole Butts, President of NLYB Solutions

Create a Support System of Caring Relationships

Mental and social wellness comes from having a deep and wide support system built on a foundation of strong and caring relationships. Sometimes you have to toss out the agenda and truly connect to be able to get anything done. How are they really feeling? What’s actually going on? Share how you are doing to set the stage for vulnerability and connection.

Jelena Djordjevic, VP of People at Thumbtack

Value and Implement Employee Feedback

One way to sustain employees' mental and social wellness is to consider their feedback and be consistent with any actions from that feedback. 

What we did was survey our employees electronically. We conducted focus groups and asked the general team when we were onsite their thoughts. We used that information collected to see what themes there were and what we could feasibly implement based on culture, monetary constraints, time, etc. Once we selected the programs we wanted to implement, we communicated to the team and consistently offered & administered the program. Data collection helped us change the program to fit the needs of the employees as the needs evolved (or, in some cases, phase-out programs that they wanted in the past but were no longer useful).

Alexis Johnston, Director, People Operations at Helping Hands Family

Allow for a Flexible Workplace

Employees are the most important asset to the success of an organization. Focusing on employee mental and social wellness is crucial, as it is directly connected to employee productivity and engagement. One way to ensure employees' mental and social wellness is sustained is to cultivate a flexible workplace strategy. Workplace flexibility enhances employee work-life balance, allowing employees to adapt to changing life circumstances. Additionally, it creates a sense of empowerment, greater employee satisfaction and builds trust within the organization.

Chantel Simms, Senior HR Consultant at Nonprofit HR

Curb Stigma Against Mental Health

The stigma attached to anything related to mental illness is still alive and well. In fact, I've experienced it personally. Everyone talks now about 'supporting our team members and their mental health,’ but what does that mean when people are still too ashamed to be 'that person' who is suffering and feeling alone. 

We must eradicate the stigma that even though we'll 'get you help,' you'll be remembered as the person who 'needed' the help. It must start from the top, and we must be open about our struggles in addition to providing tools. No one wants to feel like the 'crazy person'. Our job is to start from the top down to ensure that doesn't happen.

Deb Keller, President & Chief Compliance Officer of Total Insight Screening

Make Room for Flexible Work Hours

In today's workforce, 82% of employees want flexible work hours. Flexible hours can be much needed if you are a new parent, taking care of a loved one or elderly, or even walking your dogs. To bring the remote workforce together, here are a few suggestions to work with.

First, create a new hire team challenge. Team challenges that are social in nature for either walking or wellness allow teams to engage with each other in a non-work environment. A competitive challenge between two new hire teams, such as sales and marketing, can allow for culture building for your remote teams.

Secondly, offer coach and therapy as a benefit. Remote work is not easy, and remote team management is even harder. Having a coach for the team members to talk to can help them have an outlet or learn ways to improve their relationships at work or home.

Lastly, bring in Roam’s workplace metaverse called (ro.am). Roam offers an excellent way to have your remote workforce seem like they are in an actual office. Knock on their door!

D Sharma, Co-Founder and CEO of Wellness Coach

Provide Access To Financial Education and Tools

For those struggling financially, there can be more stress that further impacts their mental health, which can affect their overall well-being. Financial wellness programs can help employees build better financial habits, see the true value in a company’s overall benefits offering, and prepare for the future. Providing all employees access to financial education, tools, and coaching through a mix of digital and human can help employees become more financially confident and in control. Financial safety can bring peace of mind and, in turn, improve wellbeing overall.

Amy Bruce, Head of UBS Financial Wellness

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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