Mental health is a hot-button issue in the media and one that is still considered a bit taboo in the workplace. But when employees are overly stressed, it can lead to depression, anxiety and lost productivity. As an employer, you care about your employees’ well-being and have a vested interest in ensuring that you cultivate a positive, product work environment.
Should you monitor employee mental health in the workplace, and if so, how do you go about doing it?
Should You Monitor Employee Mental Health?
At least one out of six employees are battling mental health issues, like depression, anxiety and stress. The U.S. National Comorbidity Survey for Americans aged 15-54 found that 18% of employed individuals experienced symptoms of mental health issues. In 2010, Americans spent more than $11 billion on antidepressants.
The issue is more common than you might think. But because mental health is still a taboo subject in the workplace, employers often write off the symptoms.
How to Monitor Mental Health in the Workplace
How can you monitor the mental state of your employees without creating conflict?
Break the Taboo
Employees can experience mental health issues for a number of reasons, but one of the main issues is the fear of opening up to talk about it. Many people shy away from expressing the issues they’re battling with on a daily basis.
Cultivate a work culture that encourages your employees to openly talk about mental health. Raise awareness about common issues, like anxiety, depression, social anxiety, etc. Create an environment where your employees can come forward to talk about these issues.
Talking about the problem is the first step to overcoming the issue. And giving employees the flexibility to take mental days will further encourage this positive, open environment. Sometimes, all it takes is one or two days of recharging for the employee’s mental state to improve.
Look for Behavior Changes
Some people feel uncomfortable coming forward to talk about their mental health struggles. Go the extra mile and be on the lookout for behavior changes in your team members.
Common symptoms to look for include:
- Withdrawal from contact
- Mood swings
- Loss of motivation
If one of your team members is displaying some or all of these symptoms, consider sitting down and having a conversation about the behavior.
Talking to Employees without Judgement
If you decide to sit down and talk to an employee who may be exhibiting the above-mentioned behavioral changes, do so in a gentle manner.
Do not make assumptions or be combative. Your assumptions may be wrong. The goal is to see what is going on and find the best solution to overcome it.
If the employee opens up and is in fact suffering from mental health issues, steps can be taken to address it.
If employees are open about their mental health struggles, you may have a conversation about what triggers his or her symptoms. With a list of symptoms in hand, you can find ways to offer support to manage the issue.
Some workplaces offer free sessions with therapists to evaluate employee mental health and provide support. You may direct the employee to take advantage of these sessions to improve themselves.