April/May 2021  Volume 19, Number 2        

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How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

Studies show accident prone workers often suffer from physical or emotional problems that are usually temporary conditions.

The pandemic has made some managers focus greater attention on mental health in the workplace, according to panelists attending the virtual 2021 National Safety Council Safety Congress & Expo. Some mental health issues may be specific to the pandemic currently, but the issue is not going away after the pandemic.

“One of the things that's really concerned me lately is mental health and the relationship between incidents and accidents in the workplace,” said Laurence Pearlman, Raleigh, North Carolina-based senior vice president at Marsh Risk Consulting.

According to Mr. Pearlman, studies have found that 3% of workers account for about 22% of workplace accidents, and of those accident-prone workers 50% of them are more likely to suffer from a serious accident. Even though employers may consider simply terminating such workers, studies have shown that being accident prone is typically a temporary condition, usually lasting only six to 12 months and caused by serious problems at work or home, he said.

These issues may include physical or emotional conditions, a social or financial crisis, or distractions caused by pressures such as the pandemic, he said.

“We need to recognize the stresses our employees are under and how we’re going to manage it,” he said. “Having a mental health strategy is critical. There are a lot of … mental health conditions that are driving some outcomes at work that aren't good for the employee, and not good for the company either.”

Here are some things you can do to improve mental health in your workplace:

  • Make sure the workspace has good natural light. Make sure there are plenty of windows or skylights; focus on spaces that offer these features when searching for or building a new workplace.
  • Encourage employees to take walk breaks. For many workers, walking at work may be their primary activity during the day, making it even more important. These daily steps can have a significant impact on morale.
  • If possible, add plants to the workspace. Having greenery around can make a space seem more inviting and comforting, even if it's subtle.
  • Offer opportunities to be social but make them optional.
  • Give employees enough autonomy with their work so they feel trusted.
  • Train managers not to micromanage.
  • Cultivate a culture that values respect for others.
  • Discipline employees who cause problems before the problems become worse.
  • Take complaints seriously and investigate them appropriately.
  • Implement an employee wellness program to help improve overall wellness levels for everyone.
  • Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
  • Provide other benefits that can improve mental health, like free gym memberships. (Physical activity can improve mental health, too.)
  • Include mental health benefits along with other healthcare benefits and let workers know.
  • Talk openly about mental health to help reduce the stigma associated with it. Just the simple idea of making it OK to talk about mental health can allow employees to feel more comfortable coming to management when they need help. This can go a long way toward helping employees get what they need to improve their mental health daily.
  • Ensure employees have options to keep a good work/life balance. This might mean allowing appointments to be taken in the middle of the workday or providing flexibility in working hours, for example. It could even be as simple as not requiring too much overtime or taking active steps to ensure employees take their allotted vacation time (and offering an appropriate amount of paid vacation time in the first place).
  • Avoid employee burnout by routinely assessing employee workload and taking steps to keep it in balance.
  • Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals.
  • Consider offering an employee assistance program (EAP) if you don't already have one. If you do have one, ensure it's communicated clearly, and employees are aware of their options.
  • Pay employees a fair amount to reduce the likelihood of financial stressors.
  • Consider offering financial wellness services to help address financial stressors.
  • Encourage employees to take their breaks throughout the day.
  • Offer healthy snack alternatives whenever food is offered. Staying physically healthy can impact mental health.
  • Recognize employees' hard work; and show them they're appreciated.

[adapted from a list by HR Daily Advisor]

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In this issue:

This Just In...

COVID-19 Impact on Workers' Comp Less Detrimental Than Expected

Long Term Problems with COVID-19 Workers' Comp Claims

How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

The Benefits of Structured Settlements



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