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09.20.18

Three Strategies to Encourage Good Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental Health Kellerer

L
ET’S FACE IT: emotions are an inescapable element of the human experience.

Unfortunately, for many people, fluctuating feelings can run on overdrive in response to a society overflowing with negativity – think natural disasters, mass shootings, suicides and even a heated political environment all occurring with disturbing regularity. There are also stressful personal events in our lives that add to the swinging emotional pendulum, like the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or the loss of a job.

According to a recent study, employees suffering from depression cost employers more than $44 billion per year in lost productivity, with over 81 percent of that decreased productivity coming in the form of presenteeism, or the practice of going to work despite illness or anxiety and commonly resulting in reduced productivity.

While it’s not uncommon to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, I believe by recognizing and taking ownership of our sometimes-wavering emotions – especially in the workplace – we can change our course for the better.

By working to shift the residual emotional effects of stressful situations and embracing more positivity, we can strive to achieve enhanced well-being and professional success.

For this strategy to be effective, leaders must start by taking a top-down approach to dealing with mental health in the workplace. By creating and implementing effective mental health programs within their organization, companies can experience greater staff member well-being, boost productivity and contribute to transforming our country’s corporate culture regarding mental health.

Mental Health Defined

Before getting to my tips on how management can get started with this mission, it’s important to review the various definitions of mental health.

At its core, mental health is “the emotional resilience which allows us to enjoy life, create friendships and be productive at our jobs.” This emotional flexibility helps us cope with life’s disappointments and setbacks, such as death, familial conflict or other stressful situations. Protecting our mental health is as essential as protecting our physical well-being.

Stress, anxiety and depression are the most common forms of clinically diagnosed mental health disorders. Fortunately, many of these disorders can be treated with social supports (however, in some cases, some individuals require medical intervention).

On a personal level, it’s no secret that mental ill health can lead to general unhappiness. As a result, it can impact our lives in the professional world, costing businesses millions of dollars due to absenteeism, high staff turnover and presenteeism.

As such, today’s business leaders and employers must make it a priority to serve as instruments of change in our current negatively charged, turbulent environment.

So, how can you get started to ensuring that your employees have good mental health in the workplace?

The Domino Effect of Positivity

As an international speaker, mental health expert and author, I have been fortunate to travel around the globe throughout my career meeting with hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs about mental wellness. The consensus among these individuals is that when you focus on taking care of your own emotional health, the resulting positivity has a contagious effect, especially when it comes to relationships between leaders and employees.

Executives at the top of the chain of command must start by looking for any signs of higher than average employee stress, including regular complaining, and anger or reduced (or a boost in) productivity.

While altering attitudes to mental health in the workplace should be a priority, it can be daunting for some leaders to fully understand how they can support a staff member’s well-being.

Here are three strategies to improve how you approach mental health within your organization:
  1. Understand that knowledge is power. Make a point of truly trying to understand the advantages of a mentally healthy work atmosphere. A happier team equates to higher commitment, creativity and productivity. On the other hand, it is also important to realize the risk factors that can trigger poor mental health, such as lack of engagement, non-inclusion in decision-making, excessive workloads and more. There are numerous measures you can take to minimize these risk factors, including awareness of health and safety, greater autonomy, recognition of good work, promoting work-life balance and supporting career development. It is also critical that business leaders are better informed on the current landscape of mental illness. The stigma associated with mental illness in our society tends to stem from unfamiliarity. Keep in mind, the great majority of people who struggle with poor mental health can be productive and valued employees when the proper support system is in place.

  2. Take practical steps to help your organization. When developing your initial strategy, tap into the array of tools available to help you create your organization’s policies and procedures. You can access the latest educational and training materials either digitally or in hard copy formats. There are also diagnostic tools, which allow for monitoring employees, that you can download and use, too. Please note that these tools do not replace the need for professional input, but they can serve as tools to help gauge basic general employee mental health.

  3. Let employees know where to go if they need help. If you are facing a deluge of negative emotions amongst your team members, they may feel seeking help is an overwhelming prospect. However, if your company has policies and procedures in place that aim to improve the mental well-being of everyone on staff, there should always be a clear path for employees to engage with and share difficulties confidentially. Remember, as an employer, you are not expected to be a mental health expert – in some situations, a referral may be required. The best outcomes are to resolve an employee’s difficulties and to keep them productive and on staff – usually via early intervention, training and education.

The Bottom Line

When leaders make conscious efforts to embrace positivity – even in turbulent times – we can help our employees experience increased positivity and more success.

The statistics about making such efforts are telling: one recent study by ValueOptions revealed that employees who utilized mental health tools (and met with a mental health provider) reported a decrease in absenteeism, and considerable improvement in both productivity and overall mental health.

As we become increasingly savvier to our society’s mental health needs, it’s in every manager’s best interest to implement a focus on positivity in the workplace. The long-term investment in mental health awareness, education and training will inevitably create returns that outweigh the loss of productivity in the professional world.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Ulrich Kellerer. He is an inspirational business leader, international speaker and mental health activist from Munich, Germany. For over 20 years, Kellerer worked in the European fashion industry as the founder and CEO of the German clothing line, Faro Fashion, which had the distribution rights for the brand CLOSED (the leading European fashion company for women’s and men’s sportswear) in Bavaria – south Germany.

Kellerer is the co-author of The Soul of Success with Jack Canfield and the author of the recently-released title, One Moment Can Change Your Life: Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary People. Today, he dedicates his time to fighting the depression epidemic and promoting mental wellness in the workplace.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:59 AM
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