Today is World Mental Health Day. Which means we should really be talking about the role organizations can play when it comes to promoting employee wellness and mental health in the workplace.
According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health, especially when it comes to mental health in the workplace. The workplace is seen as an environment where everyone is supposed to work hard and focus on getting the job done.
A report by the PRCA found that more than 57% of communications professionals are reluctant to talk about mental health as opposed to physical health.
Research by Bustle indicates that one in four Americans say work is a source of anxiety while half of employees with anxiety say it interferes with co-worker relationships. Bustle further reports that depression costs employees more than other health conditions.
According to Mental Health America, a quarter to a third of our lives will be spent at work. Employee well being and job satisfaction depend a great deal on workplace culture. This in turn impacts the overall productivity, energy levels and health of individuals.
By investing in the mental health and well-being of their employees, organizations will have individuals who are likely to be happier and more productive, resulting in better business outcomes for the organization.
This leads us to a bigger question: what role can you, as an internal communications practitioner play, when it comes to mental health in the workplace? How can you effectively help boost employee wellness and wellbeing?
Here are 5 ways internal communications professionals can play an integral role in ensuring mental health and employee well-being become a fundamental part of their company’s organizational culture.
5 Ways Internal Comms Pros can Start the Conversation on Mental Health and Employee Wellness
1) Talk about Mental Health to Promote Employee Wellness
You’re a communicator by profession. There’s a high likelihood that your superpower or strength lies in communicating effectively with various stakeholders.
Use that superpower to really talk about mental health issues and employee well being. This means bringing up the topic of mental health in the workplace at every executive level meeting.
As a communicator, you enjoy a very special position. You get to communicate with both employees and leadership and can really bridge the communication gap between these two groups. Use this to your advantage to effectively communicate the importance of mental health to both groups.
Bring up mental health at every single meeting you possibly can. Keep at it until it becomes firmly embedded within the organization’s core values and company culture.
2) Adopt a Multi-Channel Approach
Talking about mental health in the workplace and employee well-being shouldn’t be limited to bringing it up during face-to-face meetings.
It needs to be a part of your entire internal communications strategy. You need to mention mental health and employee well-being within your internal newsletters, bring it up on social media, print brochures on what mental health means and what an organization can do to eliminate the taboo of talking about it.
Use digital signage, videos, posters, blogs and webinars to teach and educate employees and executive leadership on the significance of mental health in the workplace as well as employee wellness initiatives. Be sure to have a resources page on the company website regarding mental health and employee wellness.
You should also feature employees and their struggles with mental health in the workplace within your internal communications. Remember, you need to break the stigma. And you can only do that by ensuring that both employees as well as upper management don’t shy away from the topic.
The table below further gives you an excellent way of truly utilizing each and every communication channel in a way that gets the message across to your audience.
You can take this a step further and start internal awareness campaigns on mental health via social media. You could start by talking about any personal challenges you may have faced that impacted your mental health or how you saw a loved one go through it.
Then encourage employees and executive leadership to also take part in the campaign. Don’t restrict these campaigns to Mental Health Day or Mental Health Awareness Week. This conversation and dialogue needs to be ongoing and always top of mind.
3) Involve Executive Leadership
If you truly want mental health and employee wellness to be a conversation instead of a fad, you need to involve executive leadership from the get-go.
You need to introduce initiatives to train leadership on the importance of mental health and employee wellness. This means you’ll probably have to bring this up in every boardroom meeting.
And you need to ensure executive leadership openly talks about their own struggles. They should be open to sharing their stories and personal experiences on social media and within the employee newsletters.
It’s only when the leadership starts taking mental health and employee wellness seriously is when employees will break away from the fear of talking about mental health themselves. They’ll know then that it’s okay to talk about this and they’re not alone in this struggle.
And remember, when it comes to getting executive approval for an internal comms initiative, the earlier you get buy-in, the better. Be sure to start the mental health conversation with executive leadership as early as possible!
4) Introduce Workshops on Mental Health and Employee Wellness
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma around mental health. And the reason for that is that many individuals don’t really understand what mental health is and how to face it or deal with it. This is especially true when it comes to mental health in the workplace.
The key to getting rid of this problem is to educate, educate, educate. This may mean you need to bring in a certified and trained professional who can come in and give workshops on mental health, talk about how to recognize the signs of someone going through it and give advice on how you can be an ally during times of turmoil for others.
These workshops should be mandatory for all employees as well as executive leadership to attend.
5) Start an Employee Wellness Program
If your company currently doesn’t have a wellness program for employees, now might be a good idea to start it. You can circulate surveys to employees asking them for feedback on what a good wellness program means for them.
Would they prefer company yoga retreats that help them unplug from work? Would they feel better if there were weekly yoga or meditation classes within the company? Or perhaps an in-house masseuse is more in line with what your employees really need.
You could take inspiration from Zappos and introduce a nap room for employees to recharge after their lunch. Or start a weight management program for employees to live a more active and healthier lifestyle.
Here’s an article that’s devoted to different types of wellness programs you can introduce in your organization.
Whatever your wellness program entails, be sure to research in advance, understand what your employees truly want and need and then demonstrate to executive leadership the benefits of investing in a wellness program to get buy-in.
Remember, your superpowers are your epic communication skills! Use them to spread awareness on mental health and employee wellness and eliminate the stigma!
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