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After a year and a half of quarantine, lockdown, loss of loved ones, and economic uncertainty, supporting your team's mental health is a necessity. Anxiety, anxiety, and stress can occur anytime, but given all the events in 2020, these have risen to levels that are much more difficult for many to manage. Coupled with the increased stress from outside the workplace, 74% of teleworkers said their responsibilities at work had increased, while 45% reported a decline in mental health in the second half of 2020.
For small businesses that don't yet have the budget to offer expensive therapy to their employees, the situation may feel hopeless. The temptation is to do nothing; However, a lot can be done by small businesses to promote the mental health of their employees. Here are some creative ways you can help your employees practice good mental hygiene so they can do their best.
Similar: Why Your Mental Health Is Key To Your Business Success
In the Harvard Business Review's 2019 Mental Health Report, the most requested resources for mental health in the workplace were a more open and accepting culture, clearer information about where to go or who to seek help, and training.
It is important that employees feel comfortable first of all, going to their manager if they have difficulty dealing with stress or anxiety. It is also important that they know who to turn to if they need help.
This information shouldn't just be buried in the onboarding material, but should be shared regularly in meetings, emails, or on Slack or other team messaging platforms. Perhaps after an especially challenging week, an email could be sent to your team members reminding them of the mental health resources you are offering. As long as you keep it light-hearted and don't pressure your reps to share it when they're not ready, the information will be welcomed by everyone.
Related: Moving the Narrative: Entrepreneurs and Mental Health
Offer flexible schedule options
Many teleworkers with children can experience planning issues that add to the stress. Giving your team members flexibility in planning and the ability to create their own schedules will not only reduce the burden on them, but also likely result in greater productivity as employees can work during times of the slightest distraction.
Flexibility in scheduling doesn't mean lowering your standards. If you give your team members the opportunity to set their own schedule, they will likely find ways to work more efficiently. In addition, it shows that you trust your employees, which allows them to trust themselves and have more confidence in their work.
Model strategies for self-care
It is important for your employees to see that you are exemplifying good mental hygiene and self-care practices. If you consistently burn the candle on both ends, your team members will feel that this is what is expected of them, too. Let your staff know when you take a break to exercise, stretch, or meditate. Let them know of times when you will be unavailable because you need to unplug. Take a vacation where you don't even work. When your team members see you taking steps to prioritize your own mental health, they see it as normal and accepted and are encouraged to follow suit.
Mandate leave time
A mandatory vacation policy is one that requires employees to take a set number of vacation days per year. There may be at least a week off, five consecutive days, or the policy may allow employees to spread out their vacation days and take one or two at a time.
Employees who take mandatory vacation leave are more likely to return to work with renewed sense of purpose. Because many tasks can be done from the phone, many employees find it difficult to leave their jobs even if they physically leave the office. This leads to burnout and many other health problems. With the mandatory vacation, employees can take a real break to recharge their batteries.
Some companies will enforce paid vacation at certain times to ensure employees are in during the busiest times and away at the slowest times. Some companies will even close their doors for a period of time to give all employees a vacation when they are really not needed at work. Not only does this lead to lower burnout and higher productivity, but it can also enable smaller companies to plan their year more efficiently.
Offer support in personal and professional development
Burnout often has less to do with being overwhelmed by the amount of work and more to do with the type of work. If an employee gets stuck in boring, monotonous tasks for months, burnout can quickly occur.
A true leader will always look for ways to develop their team. When employees are able to pursue their interests within the company, or perhaps even take courses to learn new skills, they feel more invested in the work and the company. In addition, advancing the company or even moving sideways to a new department can give an employee more determination and confidence in themselves and their work.
Related: Now is the time to promote mental health in the workplace
Offer a gym membership
It's no secret that physical health and mental health are closely related. A healthy lifestyle with good nutrition, adequate sleep, and exercise can help prevent mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety. It can also prevent these conditions from getting worse and even play a huge role in mental health recovery.
If your company is able to offer gym membership to employees, it can have a huge impact on employee health. Even a minimal amount of consistent exercise can increase energy levels, improve memory and brain function, contribute to relaxation and sleep quality, and improve overall happiness. Even if your employees don't eat healthily or don't sleep well, exercising regularly can improve both their sleeping and eating habits (because better sleep and more energy generally lead to less cravings). Better physical health then leads to better mental health.
Gym memberships can be expensive, but many gyms offer corporate discounts. In the end, it's a small sacrifice given the huge payoff potential.
For the past year and a half, health has come to the fore. Workplaces had to adopt whole new hygiene protocols like social distancing, masks, remote working and more overnight. Mental hygiene is no less important. As we begin to prioritize workplace wellbeing, now is the perfect time to start incorporating mental health support into your overall corporate culture. This leads to happier, healthier, and more resilient employees who are ready to take on the big challenges your business faces.