Published October 15, 2019

Incorporating Mental Wellness in the Workplace

We all know the importance of physical fitness in keeping us healthy and vibrant throughout our lives. What you may not know is that mental fitness is equally important. In fact, the two are intertwined. Neglecting your mental health can make you less resilient to life’s ups and downs, leaving you more likely to make poor lifestyle choices. You can only achieve mental fitness if your body is functioning well.

What is mental fitness? Learn more about the Four pillars of Mental Fitness here.

Increasingly, health professionals and workplace experts are recognizing the interconnectedness of all aspects of health, from physical and social to financial and emotional. Just as companies strive to keep their employees physically healthy, many understand that mental wellness is also a key aspect of retaining happy, productive workers.

How can you get started?

There are countless tools and activities that could potentially help your employees, but whether you’re a startup business or a larger company, it’s impossible to try them all. The solution? Ask your employees themselves. Create an online survey that each staffer can fill out anonymously, asking them to rank mental health opportunities in order of importance to him or her. Broad categories could include:

• Outside specialists. Regularly scheduled motivational speakers, meditation leaders and yoga instructors all provide different opportunities to recharge. Your team can select whether any or all of these types of weekly events might be helpful to them.

• Mental health days. Being able to take occasional days off because of stress or depression not only acts as a pressure valve for the staff person in need of them but also helps alleviate the stigma of needing extra support.

• Onsite mental health support. Of course, it’s rare that a company can employ a full-time counselor. But the ability to visit HR to learn about area support groups and other resources may be a priority for your workforce. For example, expert guidance in finding a counselor who takes the employee’s insurance may help an individual get over the psychological hurdle of identifying affordable help.

Utilize modern technology.

When I created my app, which uses music to improve mindfulness, I wanted to harness tech to boost mental, emotional and physical wellness. Having the ability to quickly pull up an app that allows us to choose something like a guided meditation or music track meant to help us focus is imperative today.

Encourage your employees to share their own high-tech solutions to various aspects of mental wellness. It might be another app, such as Calm, which provides meditation guidance for problems such as anxiety, sleep-encouraging audio and videos for stretching and other gentle movements.

Your team might have favorite YouTube videos to share on diverse topics ranging from yoga classes, soothing herbal teas or “face tapping” to soothe anxiety. Encourage them to share these technological mental health aids, either in team gatherings or as anonymous suggestions that you pass along.

Understand additional aspects of mental wellness.

Because boosting mental wellbeing can take many forms, it’s important that employers consider how the workplace can help ease stress. Of course, not all mental health issues arise from outside factors, but they can be exacerbated by isolation and pressure.

Social wellness, for example, can be a pillar of a workplace’s mental health planning. “Team-building” has long been an industry buzzword because of its ability to boost company morale and individual productivity. But creating a sense of community within the workplace is not only good for the company’s success, but also for the well-being of the people who work there.

Build workplace community by having gatherings and outings that aren’t explicitly presented as boosting bottom-line productivity, but rather simply for fun and relaxation. You can also encourage regular events like pot-luck lunches or after-hours book club. These gatherings should be completely voluntary; enforced community can be just as bad as isolation for some people.

It’s also important to remember that financial security can be a key component of improving mental health. Make sure that your business is doing what it should to help employees make choices regarding retirement planning, insurance plans and tax filing implications. If possible, expand tuition assistance programs. Outside professionals may be useful as guest speakers on specialized financial planning topics.

Don’t neglect your own wellness.

Are you familiar with that “oxygen mask on a plane” analogy often used for parenting? It also holds true for entrepreneurs, top-level managers and other business leaders. If you don’t consider your own mental wellness a priority, you won’t be able to help your staff when they’re in distress.

Reaching out to trusted counterparts can often help you find solutions to common problems in your industry. Perhaps you have a disruptive manager working under you and you’re not sure how to address the problem. Maybe you’re weighing the pros and cons of expansion. While more experienced business owners and high-level executives won’t be able to tell you what to do, they can provide valuable insight that takes the anxiety out of these decisions.

Leading by example is crucial in virtually every aspect of business leadership, and mental wellness is no exception. By encouraging an atmosphere that destigmatizes the quest for all aspects of health, as well as by making opportunities available for your employees, you’ll be contributing to your team’s mental wellness in countless ways.

Above is adapted from Forbes.

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