Read any list of the top trending HR issues of 2022 and you’ll likely see a mention of mental health support. What was once among the least talked about roles of an employer has become a widely discussed topic and, increasingly for many job applicants and employees, an expectation.
Employers, by and large, might be falling short. According to a September 2021 survey commissioned by software provider Modern Health and conducted by Forrester Consulting, 87% of respondents (U.S employees and managers) want their employers to care about their mental health. But only 66% of respondents believe their employers actually do care.
So, how can you show you care? Openly recognize the mental health challenges that employees face and take steps, appropriate to your organization’s budget and culture, to help workers cope. Here are four ideas:
1. Add an employee assistance program (EAP). If your organization already offers a health care benefits package, augmenting it with an EAP is a relatively straightforward and comprehensive measure.
An EAP is a voluntary and confidential work-based intervention program designed to help employees and their dependent family members deal with issues that may be affecting their mental health, emotional well-being and job performance. The cost tends to vary based on the size of the employer (larger organizations pay less per employee) and the scope of benefits provided.
2. Offer flexible scheduling. The COVID-19 pandemic has largely forced employers’ hands when it comes to allowing employees to work remotely and on less strict schedules. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Offering more flexible work times has long been a recommended practice for attracting job candidates and retaining good workers. If your organization has had to alter its policies on where and when employees perform their duties, look to build on this flexibility — with an eye toward work/life balance and mental health — rather than take it away when pandemic-related measures completely fade.
3. Train supervisors. Often, the first and perhaps only person to notice that an employee could be suffering from mental health issues is a supervisor. The problem then becomes how and when should the supervisor best respond? In many cases, people managers don’t know precisely what to do or whether they could get the organization into legal trouble by overstepping.
The answer lies in training. You could develop your own mental-health-focused leadership training program in consultation with your attorney. Or you could engage an HR consulting firm to provide the training. Both options will call for an investment of dollars and time, but the result should be supervisors who can act quickly and knowledgably to get employees the help they need.
4. Give them an app. This may sound like a lazy option, and it certainly shouldn’t be the only thing you do. However, many employers are bulk-purchasing employee subscriptions to mobile apps that help users monitor their mental health, engage in meditation, focus better while working and improve sleep habits.
There are various products to choose from and a cost-to-benefit ratio to consider. If nothing else, providing employees with an app can serve as a good “icebreaker” regarding mental health and a means of showing that, indeed, you do care.