May is Mental Health Awareness month. While mental health is always an important topic, it’s especially so in the current environment. People have been coping with a pandemic and its repercussions for over a full year, and that really takes its toll. As an employer, caring about employees’ mental health is not only the kind thing to do, it can be the smart thing to do for business as well.
The Effects of Poor Employee Mental Health
A recent study from Limeade shows that 72% of employees report feeling burnt out after juggling so much stress over the past year. That number is way up from just 42% of employees pre-pandemic. Furthermore, statistics show that one in five adults in the United States is living with a mental health condition. These numbers may seem shocking, but in a world that is social media-obsessed and all about instant gratification, is it that difficult to believe that people are hiding their imperfect lives and internal struggles?
I’ve held the role of Chief People Officer at Jack Henry for nearly five years now. And, through that leadership journey, I’ve developed a love for the people of Jack Henry that I never knew existed. But, love is not enough, it must be underscored with consistent action. I’m proud we offer resources like an Employee Assistant Program (EAP) and other free and confidential resources to help employees with any struggles they may be having. We want our associates to know that they and their health matter to us. Making sure our employees are happy and healthy is one of our key tenets at Jack Henry. We believe happy employees result in a more productive and positive workplace.
You don’t need to take my word for it though. According to the World Health Organization, untreated depression and anxiety costs the global economy approximately $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. However, the WHO also found that for every $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a $4 return in health and productivity. In other words, it pays to keep your employees happy and healthy.
Small Steps Can Go a Long Way
Offering mental health resources may seem like relatively small steps when it comes to helping employees, but sometimes a little nudge or a helping hand is exactly what a person needs. When I was in college, I saw a counselor to overcome the anxiety I felt when I was in unfamiliar situations, had people around that I didn’t know, etc. (All the things an introvert is secretly scared of!) He suggested that I go to class each day and raise my hand and ask a question – even if I knew the answer.
That little nudge taught me how it’s okay to raise your hand. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay not to know the answer. And, I still work on raising my hand to this day, even when I’m nervous, not the smartest in the room, or struggle to feel like I belong. By offering programs and making an effort towards improving employee mental health, you’re opening that door for them to raise their hands and get the help they may need.
Getting Started with Employee Mental Health
Offering employees that helping hand doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re part of a company that is looking for ways to improve employee mental health, there are numerous ways you can get started. The first is simple – make employees aware of the resources your company does offer. If your company isn’t doing anything yet, here are a few simple ways to begin.
- Look into offering an EAP. Research suggests that EAPs are a worthwhile investment. There are different types of EAPs as well, so you can select the one that best suits the needs of both employees and the company.
- Help employees manage stress by evaluating their workload with them. This is especially important if you notice any behavior changes.
- Encourage employees to take short breaks throughout the day – even if it’s just for a quick walk around the block! According to McLean Hospital, breaks actually make employees more efficient.
- Check in on employees, especially if they’re working remotely. Regular contact and communication is meaningful.
Like I said before, these steps may seem small, but they have the potential to have a major impact on employees’ lives and wellbeing. To me, that alone is worth the time and effort it takes to research and implement some of the above suggestions. After all, what is a company without its employees?
So, this year during Mental Health Awareness month, we invite everyone – employers and employees alike – to reflect on how much you’re taking care of yourself, your whole self. And don’t be afraid to raise your hand if you need help.