May is Mental Health Month. Your employee’s mental well-being matters year-round. But this month is an opportune time to communicate with your employees about how you support them.
Good mental health is not just necessary for your workers’ total well-being, but it also benefits you as an employer. Mental health conditions contribute to 62 percent of missed work days. That’s according to the 1,850 U.S. employed adults surveyed for the 2019 Unum Mental Health Report.
Whether you have a fully-developed set of benefits that address mental health in the workplace, or offer employees general wellness resources, communications is key. Here are some great programs and messages to promote as part of a communications strategy around Mental Health Month.
Teach Employees How to Use the Employee Assistance Program
Your company may offer its workers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Such programs often include several free sessions with professional therapist or counselor. This is gold, especially for someone who is struggling and doesn’t know where to turn or have a lot of money to spend.
Sadly, many employees don’t understand that an EAP is part of their benefits. The Unum report found only 38 percent of employees knew they had access to an EAP. It’s up to you to help them understand its offerings and advantages.
Use messaging to explain the program benefits and reassure employees about confidentiality. Privacy matters. Sixty-one percent of employees said there was a social stigma in the workplace towards colleagues with mental health issues. Design a mail-to-home postcard that explains step-by-step how to use the EAP. Since most EAP’s extend to dependents that communications method gets home to spouses so they know can take advantage.
Encourage Employees to Take a Stress Reduction Class
A program doesn’t need to be specifically about mental health in the workplace for employees to benefit. Mindfulness can benefit all staff, regardless if they have a diagnosed mental health condition.
Consider hosting wellness seminars. With the help of strong communications and promotion, they will be well attended and regarded by employees. I have personally benefited from a Stress Reduction session and a Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation session sponsored by my company.
There are lots of ways to promote these seminars, like email, posters and desk drop flyers. It’s also important to:
- Engage frontline managers. Give them the details to understand the impact of stress management on employee well-being and performance. Employees need to feel confident that their managers support their decision to take the time to attend a session
- Create a seamless sign-up process so employees can enroll easily and directly. This will make them more likely to take action.
- Offer both in-person and online sessions that capture remote workers, too. Or, if budgets allow, offer repeat sessions at different times of day or different times of year.
Remind Employees to Take a Break
Time away from the office is important for mental well-being. Even the occasional short break throughout the day can make a difference. Encourage employees to take them.
- Promote mobile apps, like Calm or Headspace, that help employees get the most from brief moments of revitalization. Write and distribute a communication about these options. With some guidance, staff might be motivated to download one.
- If your office is close to a walking path, or park , encourage them to get out in nature, which research shows has a restorative effect. Start a lunch-time walking club that can be done outside or even inside, if the weather is bad. This has the added benefit of socialization, which also boosts mood. A flyer on the breakroom fridge would be an eye-catching way to communicate about this program.
Vacation time is crucial for mental health. Remind employees about your vacation time policy and help them understand why it’s important. Feature the voices of senior leadership in communications so employees know they support time off. Since May is the time many people start planning their summer vacations, it’s a great time to drill down into this message. Also remind folks about your employee discount program and how to save on rental cars, hotels, attractions, etc.
Promote Charitable Efforts
Use your voice as a company to support mental health in the workplace and let employees know it’s a priority. Make a corporate donation to an organization that promotes mental well-being. Or, you may want a more hands-on approach. Organize a company team to participate in a charitable outing, like the National Alliance for Mental Health walk or the Out of the Darkness walks from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In this case, you need consistent communications both inside and outside of Mental Health Month. Create a how-to tool kit for managers, so they can talk up charitable events at team meetings and engage participation. The presence of leadership at such events is a morale booster. If you’ve done a walk before, ask staff to share photos. Post them on the company intranet to raise feelings of camaraderie. If this is the company’s first time, no need to reinvent the wheel. Many charities have media packages to download and distribute.
Mental health in the workplace matters to everybody—those who struggle with their own mental health issues and those who want to support them. Take the time this month and every month to communicate that your company values its workers’ total well-being.