While you hope your people are always feeling their best mentally, that’s not always the case. And it can be rough for CFOs and other execs at the top, too.
Mental health issues can not only diminish people’s quality of life, they can also negatively impact workers’ performance and productivity in the office. That’s why offering benefits that support employees’ mental health is important.
Why mental health is vital
Although it may be a tough subject to address, September is National Suicide Prevention Month – which you can use as a key reminder to check if you’re offering the type of support employees may need from you if they’re feeling unwell.
A sobering reminder of the importance of prioritizing mental health recently came with the news that the CFO at Bed Bath & Beyond, Gustavo Arnal, committed suicide shortly before the Labor Day holiday. The retail chain had just announced store closures and layoffs.
The Dept. of Labor is also calling attention to another workplace phenomenon related to mental health this month: the high rates of suicide among construction workers. Construction workers are four times more likely to end their own lives than people in the general population, according to the CDC. Suicides among construction workers are also far more common than workplace fatalities in the industry.
Combine that with a significant increase in the rates of anxiety and depression in the general U.S. population since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and it’s likely that many employees in various occupations are struggling with mental health issues while still trying to do their jobs.
Although some workers may be more at risk than others for various reasons, mental health should be a top concern of companies like yours that want to keep their workforce engaged and productive. After all, checked-out employees doing the bare minimum due to mental health concerns can have a detrimental effect on the bottom line.
Strategies to help your people
Because there’s still somewhat of a stigma surrounding mental health, you may have employees who are secretly dealing with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or other mental health issues – including managers and your peers in the C-suite.
That’s why it’s essential to prioritize creating a culture at your company where mental illness is treated the same way as any other serious health condition and employees are encouraged to take the steps necessary to keep themselves healthy.
In May 2022, the DOL released a fact sheet about mental health conditions and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), saying that workers who are eligible for leave can also use it to care for themselves or a family member dealing with mental illness. Your employees should be aware of that fact.
You should also huddle with HR to make sure employees are aware of any additional benefits outside of FMLA leave or paid time off your company may offer to assist them with mental health issues – e.g., an employee assistance program. It might also be helpful to highlight the mental health coverage available in your company’s health insurance plan.
To specifically help employees who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, the Workplace Suicide Prevention organization has numerous strategies for leaders on its website, including guidance on how to create a healthier workplace culture through:
- Smarter work design focused on flexibility and input from each individual on the team
- Training on improving stress management and work/life balance
- Opportunities for mentoring and coaching
- A zero tolerance policy for harassment and bullying, and
- Increasing awareness of mental health issues by providing education and resources to workers.
Employees who know their company values their health, including their mental health, will be more likely to stick around and perform their jobs the best they can. That reduces costly turnover and contributes to a healthier office environment where employees are motivated to do quality work.