Quick Tips to Help Employers Improve Mental Health in the Workplace
While corporate wellness programs often focus on helping employees improve their physical health, you may also need to consider adding activities that can improve mental health and emotional wellness. Poor mental health and workplace stress can lead to burnout for employees and can also be a contributory factor to physical illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
When considering mental health wellness programs, start by looking at job-related risk factors related to stress and anxiety. According to Cal/OSHA, substantial overtime may intensify employee stress, as does working with demanding individuals. Jobs with high-demand and low-control or jobs that include the repetition of simple tasks can trigger anxiety.
Also remember that employees need downtime. One study showed that employees who felt like they had to monitor work email during non-work hours suffered adverse health effects. Bullying is another issue to watch. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), bullying and psychological harassment, also called “mobbing,” are commonly reported causes of work-related stress by workers and present health risks to employees, as they are associated with psychological and physical problems.
Achieving Better Mental Wellness
The good news is that wellness programs focusing on mental health can have positive returns. A recent study estimated that for every $1 organizations put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.
If you are looking to add wellness programs and new initiatives that focus on improving your employees’ mental health, here are five ideas to consider.
Add yoga and mindfulness to your activity options. According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga may help relieve daily aches and pains, improve the immune system, build strength, increase flexibility, and improve mental health. If an individual has a health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, yoga can help reduce risk factors. Yoga might also help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
Organize support groups. Peer-to-peer support groups can help people overcome mental health issues, set attainable goals, and change behavior. To guide discussion around a specific topic or affliction, consider inviting a professional to give a presentation during the first part of the meeting. When people come together with similar experiences, they are less likely to feel so alone, and they can gain a sense of empowerment and control. In small groups, people are more likely to discuss topics such as coping with work pressures, improving job performance, and dealing with a demanding boss.
Try a gratitude challenge. Happiness and gratitude may be able to inspire employees to be more productive. According to Good Think, Inc., 75 percent of job successes are predicted by optimism levels. The Austin Benefits group suggests giving employees their own gratitude journals or a jar or bulletin board to put daily gratitude reminders for a fixed period of time, such as 30 days. Digital-centric employees may prefer to use an app or electronic diary to chronicle their gratitudes, and dozens are available, including Gratitude, thankful, HappyFeed, Gratitude Garden, The Happy Button, and Uplifter.
Provide a dose of breathing technology. Mindfulness and deep breathing has been shown to help reduce stress, and anxiety. In fact, one study found taking six deep breaths in a period of 30 seconds reduced systolic blood pressure by 3.4 to 3.9 units compared to just sitting quietly. Employees with Fitbit devices may want to try Fitbit’s guided breathing experience, Relax. A handful of other breathing apps can also provide coached breathing tips and/or box breathing, a technique for taking slow, deep breaths. Doing so can help heighten your employees’ performance and concentration while also being a stress reliever.
Use visual relaxation methods. Virtual reality (VR) technology is proving to be an extremely effective device for psychological therapy. Clinicians are using VR platforms to help patients overcome addictions, fear and anxiety disorders, along with persecutory delusions, a symptom of schizophrenia.
While VR headsets are not typically available in the workplace, you can still count on visualization for relaxation. The University of Michigan Health Service has a list of one-minute stress strategies that includes visualizing an ideal relaxation environment. In this process, your employee or a group of employees would picture a place (real or imagined) where they can be totally relaxed. With their eyes closed, they take a moment to visualize their ideal place to relax. Using all the senses, they feel themselves in comfortable clothes, hear pleasant sounds, and see beautiful colors.
One other way to enhance this relaxation technique is to broadcast a live Webcam of an aquarium, ocean, beach, rainforest, lighthouse, or other soothing landscape on the video wall in your conference room. It may just make your next group gathering feel less like a meeting and more like a mini-vacation.