Mental Health & the Workplace

Posted: May 03  |  By: Parker + Lynch

Are your employees stressed out? If you employ Millennials and Gen Xers, they probably are. Most of us exist in a perpetual cycle of sleep deprivation, high expectations set by social media, political and economic uncertainty, environmental threats and rapid technological change. And while those factors affect all generations, they seem to be taking a particular toll on the mental health of these generations.

A survey from the American Psychological Association found that Millennial and Gen X employees report higher stress levels than any other generation in the workforce, with Millennials reporting a stress level of 5.7 (on a scale of 1 to 10) and Gen Xers reporting a stress level of 5.4.

High stress, anxiety and depression can prevent employees from performing at their peak, so check out these tips to help ensure your employees are working at their full potential.

Offer discounted counseling or therapy

Over the past several years, offering mental health services for employees has emerged as an HR tool for attracting and retaining the best people and increasing the quality of the workforce. You might consider partnering with an external service, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for counseling face-to-face or via a helpline.

Whether you work with external or in-house therapists, all services should be confidential and easily accessed. Remember that employees will not use the service unless they know what it offers, so communicate frequently about the availability of mental-health services and how to use them.

Create relaxed office environments

The average employee spends one-third of their life at work, so the space they work in can have a significant impact on their mental wellbeing. Modern offices with lots of glass and chrome may make for striking photos, but they’re not always the best environment for helping employees feel relaxed. To improve your office environment, consider the following factors:

  • Lighting: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the change in seasons. While it typically affects people in fall and winter, it can also impact employees who spend long hours working in office environments without sunlight. To help employees who might struggle with SAD, arrange furniture for increased light exposure and use window coverings that eliminate glare without blocking too much light. Where natural light isn’t an option, use softer LED lighting, which provides a more natural feel than fluorescent.
  • Flexibility: Open office spaces are said to encourage collaboration, creativity, and innovation. But they can also be distracting, reduce autonomy and undermine employee satisfaction and motivation. When designing your office space, provide a mix of private offices and open collaboration spaces. Let employees choose where they work on any given day – employees may choose to sit in communal areas to work on team projects, then spend time in a private office to concentrate on solo work.
  • Temperature: Working day in and day out in a too hot or too cold office can not only have an impact on productivity but can affect mental health as well. Of course, ask five employees what the ideal office temperature is, and you’ll likely receive five different answers. So unless each employee can control their own thermostat, pick an average temperature and offer desk heaters for cold employees and fans for the warmer ones.

Promote physical health initiatives

Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body, but it’s also an effective way to improve mental health. Yet so many modern jobs require employees to sit for hours without any kind of activity.

While discounted gym memberships and fitness classes are great incentives, it can be difficult for employees to fit exercise into an already hectic schedule. So encourage your employees to stay active throughout their day by implementing walking and standing meetings, standing desks or exercise balls in place of chairs. Even a few extra minutes a day of activity can make a significant difference.

The cost of implementing mental health initiatives in your company will vary, but the bottom line is that these initiatives will make each person, and the entire team, better. Encouraging people to feel well isn’t just possible – it’s the foundation of a healthy and high-performing team.

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