Employee mental health has been one of the top challenges for companies in the past couple of years, especially during and after the pandemic. According to a study, 42% of global employees reported a decline in mental health since the outbreak began.  This has significant implications for employee well-being, productivity, engagement, retention, and performance.
As it is ‘Mental Health Awareness Month,’ it is quite the right time to explore what employee mental health is, how to deal with it effectively, how to improve it, and what to do and what not to do as an employer or manager.
What Is Employee Mental Health?
Employee mental health is the state of the psychological and emotional well-being of your workforce. It affects how they think, feel and behave at work, as well as their ability to cope with stress, challenges, changes, and opportunities.
Employee mental health is not a binary concept. It is not a matter of having or not having a mental health condition. Rather, it is a spectrum that can vary from day to day and person to person. Everyone has mental health, just like everyone has physical health. And just like physical health, mental health can be influenced by various factors, such as genetics, environment, lifestyle, relationships, work culture, and events.
Some of the common mental health conditions that can affect employees are:
- Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness, or fear that interferes with daily activities.
- Depression: A persistent low mood that affects one’s interest, energy, appetite, sleep, and self-esteem.
- Burnout: A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by chronic stress at work.
- Trauma: A psychological response to a distressing or life-threatening event that can cause flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance, and hypervigilance.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A disorder that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event that can cause persistent and intrusive symptoms such as re-experiencing, avoidance, negative changes in mood and cognition, and increased arousal.
These conditions can affect anyone at any time, regardless of their age, gender, race, role, or seniority. They can also have serious consequences for both the individual and the organization if left untreated or unsupported.
How to Deal with Employee Mental Health
Dealing with employee mental health is not only a moral duty but also a legal obligation for employers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), all workers have the right to a safe and healthy environment at work.  This includes protecting and promoting their mental health.
There are three levels of intervention that employers can adopt to deal with employee mental health:
- Primary prevention: This involves eliminating or reducing the sources of stress and risk factors at work that can harm employee mental health. For example, by providing clear job roles and expectations, ensuring fair pay and recognition, offering flexible work arrangements, fostering a positive work culture, and preventing violence, harassment, and discrimination.
- Secondary prevention: Revolves around enhancing the resilience and coping skills of employees to deal with stress and challenges at work. For example, by providing training on stress management, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness.
- Tertiary prevention: This involves supporting employees who are experiencing mental health problems or crises at work. For example, by providing access to confidential counseling services, employee assistance programs (EAPs), reasonable accommodations, and return-to-work plans.
Unfortunately, many organizations fail to implement these interventions effectively or consistently. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), only 44% of employees said their organization provides sufficient resources to help them manage their stress.  Only 35% of them said their employer regularly seeks input from employees on ways to improve working conditions. Moreover, employees have recently revealed that their workplaces are offering fewer mental health services in 2022. 
This gap between what employees need and what employers provide can lead to negative outcomes such as absenteeism, presenteeism (working while sick), turnover, low morale, low quality of work, errors, accidents, conflicts, grievances, and lawsuits.
How to Improve Employee Mental Health
Improving employee mental health requires a holistic and proactive approach that involves both individual and organizational actions. Here are some tips on how to improve employee mental health:
- Train your managers to promote health and well-being among their teams by being vulnerable, empathetic, supportive, and flexible. Managers should also model healthy behaviors and habits, such as taking breaks, asking for help, and respecting work-life balance.
- Increase employees’ options for where, when, and how they work by offering remote work, flexible hours, job sharing, or other arrangements that suit their preferences and needs. This can help employees achieve a better balance between their work and personal responsibilities and reduce stress and burnout.
- Reexamine health insurance policies with a focus on employee mental health by ensuring adequate coverage for mental health services, reducing or eliminating co-pays and deductibles, expanding the network of providers, and offering telehealth options. This can help employees access affordable and convenient care for their mental health needs.
- Listen to what your employees need and use their feedback to evolve by conducting regular surveys, focus groups, or interviews to understand their challenges, concerns, and suggestions. This can help you identify the gaps in your current policies and practices and implement changes that address them.
- Take a critical look at equity, diversity, and inclusion policies by ensuring that they are not only written but also enforced and practiced. This can help you create a culture of respect, belonging, and empowerment for all employees, especially those from marginalized or underrepresented groups who may face additional barriers or discrimination that affect their mental health.
Employee Mental Health: What to Do & What Not to Do
As an employer or manager, you have a significant influence on the mental health of your employees. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind when dealing with employee mental health:
- Educate yourself and your staff on mental health awareness, stigma reduction, and resources available.
- Encourage open and honest conversations about mental health in a safe and supportive environment.
- Recognize the signs of stress or distress in yourself and others and intervene early before they escalate.
- Accommodate the needs of employees with mental health conditions as you would for those with physical health conditions.
- Promote a culture of collaboration, recognition, and feedback that fosters positive relationships and morale among employees.
- Ignore or dismiss the mental health issues of your employees or yourself.
- Judge or blame employees for their mental health problems or make assumptions about their abilities or performance based on their mental health status.
- Disclose or gossip about the mental health information of your employees without their consent.
- Pressure or coerce employees to disclose their mental health conditions or seek treatment.
- Overload or micromanage employees who are struggling with their mental health or expect them to perform at the same level as before without adequate support. 
HR Tool to Help Tackle Employee Mental Health Issues
Aside from the ways to improve employee mental health and the dos and don’ts list, you can leverage HR tools to minimize employee mental health issues. One of those tools is Applicant Tracking System (ATS.) An ATS is a software that can help you manage the recruitment process from sourcing to hiring candidates. It can also help you reduce stress on your teams by:
- Reducing the workload and stress of HR professionals by automating tasks such as posting job ads, screening resumes, scheduling interviews, sending reminders, and generating reports.
- Enhancing the candidate experience by providing a user-friendly interface, fast response time, personalized communication, and feedback.
- Improving the quality of hire by using data-driven insights, artificial intelligence, and analytics to find the best-fit candidates for your organization.
- And increasing the diversity and inclusion of your workforce by eliminating bias, promoting equal opportunities, and attracting talent from different backgrounds and perspectives.
Would you like to know more? Start a 14-day free trial with Manatal today and discover how it can help streamline your recruitment process while improving your employee mental health within a few clicks.
Wrapping It Up
In conclusion, improving employee mental health in the workplace is crucial in ensuring the overall well-being of both employees and the organization as a whole. By acknowledging and addressing mental health concerns, employers can foster a positive work environment that promotes employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. Implementing strategies such as providing mental health resources, offering flexible work arrangements, and promoting work-life balance can go a long way in promoting mental health and reducing burnout. In addition, creating an open and inclusive culture where employees feel comfortable seeking support for their mental health needs is essential in promoting a healthy workplace. Ultimately, investing in employee mental health not only benefits employees but also has significant benefits for the organization's bottom line.