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1 in 4 American Workers are Quitting Because of Mental Health

Here’s how companies can change that number.

Mental well-being is no longer negotiable. With nearly one in four workers reporting that they’ve quit a job over mental health during what is being referred to as the Great Resignation, the landscape of employment has completely changed. This complete reevaluation of priorities presents opportunities for both employees and employers to create work cultures that are more “human.” Take a look at where opportunities can be found to improve the workplace while fostering better work among employees.

What Employees Want: Navigating the Post-Pandemic Yearning for Mental Health Support in the Workplace

First, employers and managers do not need to be intimidated by the demand for greater recognition of mental health in the workplace. This is a win-win situation all around. Why? The simple answer is that ignoring mental health has been costing employers billions in lost productivity and sick days every year. More than 200 million workdays are lost in the United States every year due to mental health conditions. It works out to roughly $17 billion in lost employee productivity every year. It’s not just the lost revenue that harms companies.

Unaddressed mental health issues can be insidious because they cause employees to feel burned out, resentful, and unappreciated. This can erode workplace culture until it ultimately erodes a company’s reputation as a place to work. Nearly 60% of employees have never spoken about their mental health struggles at work out of fear of negative consequences. The great irony here is that this conversation can help companies improve conditions, boost revenue, and create a more productive working environment.

The Great Resignation has confirmed that investing in mental health is a direct investment in employee retention. The big question that employers must navigate now is how to both communicate and implement a prioritization of mental health. Achieving this comes down to understanding what employees want.

How Do Employees Want Their Employers to Support Mental Health in the Workplace?

At the core of prioritizing mental health is recognizing that workers are human first. There are many different facets that go into creating a work environment for wellness. While some are as simple as changing the way managers communicate with employees, others require investments in mental health resources. Here’s a blueprint for what a workplace that supports mental health looks like.

A Change in Company Culture That Comes From the Top

Employees want to know that executive teams, leadership, and senior-level employees aren’t just paying lip service to mental health. Leadership needs to have an “all in” attitude when it comes to being open about mental health. Influencers within an organization should take the initiative to lead by example by actually using vacation time, being clear when they are unplugging to recharge for mental health reasons, and disclosing the struggles they have experienced along the way. Transparency regarding mental health among leadership opens the gates for employees to feel comfortable about actually utilizing the resources that are being offered for mental health instead of feeling as though they will be judged for it.

Access to Mental Health Benefits and Resources

One of the most important things a company can do is reevaluate its mental health benefits to ensure that employees aren’t “going without” due to cost restrictions. In addition, human resources departments should take proactive roles in ensuring that employees are aware of the benefits that are available to them. Human resources departments should also implement internal policies for mental health support. This can include things like providing discounts to gyms, offering “lunch break” yoga classes, and encouraging employees to step outside on nice days for “outdoor meetings.” Simply normalizing the practice of actually taking a lunch break can be a strong signal to employees that they are being valued. One of the most effective ways to measure the success of mental health initiatives in the workplace is through anonymous surveys that allow employees to provide feedback on the level of support they feel is being offered.

Adding Mental Health Days

When employees have to “fake” being sick to get a day off, this can lead to a culture of unnecessary sneakiness. It creates a culture where taking time off to focus on one’s own mental health is somehow a duplicitous action. Everyone gets physically sick from time to time and we don’t question their need for sick days. We shouldn’t question when they need to take a sick day for mental health either.

Employers should offer mental health days at work to employees without question. This is a powerful gesture for signaling to employees that a company understands that mental health can be every bit as important as physical health. Why not consider adding an extra vacation day on the calendar, a universal mental health day off work for the whole company?

Providing Support Training

Training can help to support mental health in many ways. First, job-related training empowers employees to feel capable and competent in their roles. This can help to relieve workplace stress that contributes to poor mental health. In addition, training that isn’t directly related to job roles is also necessary. Companies should strongly consider offering training for managing stress, good time management, effective communication, and other topics that can significantly improve confidence and productivity in the workplace. In addition, training related to everything from mindfulness to effective conflict resolution can help employees feel empowered to approach their work from a place of balance instead of a place of fear and anxiety.

The Bottom Line on the Changing Tides of Mental Health in the Workplace

Providing mental health is no longer just a “nice gesture.” It is now the reasonability of any company that wants to stay relevant amid a massive shift in the way Americans view their relationships with work. Nearly 40% of companies have already expanded mental health benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in response to the increasing need for mental support among the American workforce. The millions of resignations that have occurred in just the past year alone demonstrate that the “old way” of managing employees is no longer sustainable.

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