5 Ways to improve mental health in the workplace
1. Wellbeing check-ins
A wellbeing pulse is a short check-in survey made up of a few short questions that ask employees how they are feeling and if they need any support. Employees can often still perform highly without showing outward signs of mental distress, so regularly checking in is an excellent way to:
- Get a gauge on individual, team and organizational mental health and wellbeing.
- Provide employees with an easy and less intimidating way to share their thoughts.
- Proactively identify any red flags, so that you can address them before they increase.
- Show your staff that you care.
- Create a culture of mental health awareness.
Make it measurable
By sending wellbeing check-ins at a regular cadence (i.e. every 2 weeks or month), you will capture rich data that allows you to track wellbeing on an individual level over time.
Using a HR software tool like intelliHR, you’ll be able to see an individual’s typical or average level of wellbeing (which may differ vastly from one individual to another). You can also identify small shifts that you might not otherwise have noticed in person, or through a single annual engagement survey (intelliHR will even send you a notification to alert you to drops in wellbeing).
Tip: Include both a numerical rating scale question (which are quick and easy to complete) as well as open-ended questions for employees to provide additional feedback if they wish.
RELATED: Employee pulse surveys: making sense of the data
2. Team wellbeing
Mental “health” exists on a spectrum. Sometimes we feel energetic, focused, on top of our work, and like we can deal with anything that comes our way. At other times, we can feel distracted, less able to concentrate and like we haven’t “got this”. And that’s okay! But if there is more than one person in a team who’s feeling this way, then it could be due to a team or work-related stressor.
Common stressors and hazards include:
- Poor culture.
- Conflict or lack of cohesion.
- Inadequate or unclear communication and expectations.
- Management issues or conflicts with supervisors.
- Inadequate support.
- Unclear or constantly changing expectations.
- High workload, pressure or job demand.
- Low job demand.
- Lack of flexibility.
- Bullying and harassment.
Make it measurable
So how do you determine if the team environment is the factor contributing to poor mental health?
If you’re conducting wellbeing check-ins from Step #1, then it’s easy, as you’ll have wellbeing data from every employee. Then, all you need to do is filter the data by team, business unit, or department, to explore if there are any corresponding hotspots or trends.
You can also use the information obtained from free text fields to analyze if there are any common themes appearing, such as a particularly high workload.
intelliHR uses natural language processing to analyze all of the text captured in check-ins and pulses, translating it into a word-cloud that displays common words used and allows you to quickly pinpoint trending issues. You can also drill down to see exactly who said what, allowing you to follow up with them.
If there does appear to be an issue within the team, or perhaps with the manager, having accurate data empowers you to take informed action to address the issue and improve mental health.
3. Remote/hybrid work
While I love the ability to work remotely and am so grateful for the flexibility that remote and hybrid work affords me, I’m the first to admit that sometimes it can be tough to draw the line between work and home life. Even if you don’t work remotely, it’s all too easy to find yourself checking emails, reading up on the latest news and trends, or doing a bit of “professional” social networking in your “off” time.
This bleeding of work into the private sphere can have a big impact on stress levels, and can ultimately lead to burnout. It’s more difficult to see how your staff are doing when you don’t see them in front of you everyday, and it can be easy for managers to forget to check-in. Scheduling and automating wellbeing check-ins is one of the best ways to stay on top of remote workers’ mental health.
Make it measurable
Add these questions to your check-ins:
- Are you at work or at home today? Asking this question will give you the ability to identify and map any differences between wellbeing when your staff are at work or home, and also compare your remote teams to in-office workers.
- Do you have everything you need to get your work done? This question provides you an opportunity to address any blockers or barriers that remote staff might be facing.
- Are you able to maintain a regular routine? Part of the benefit of flexible work is that it allows staff to work when it suits them. That might be in the evening, or earlier in the morning before the kids wake up. This question will help uncover if staff are working overtime or struggling to maintain work-life balance.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Toolkit: Managing hybrid and remote teams
People generally want to do their best. Nobody goes into a job wanting to make mistakes or fail. When performance drops this is often a major signal that your employee may be disengaged or struggling mentally at work.
Make it measurable
Having frequent, regular performance conversations and interactions (i.e. continuous performance management) helps to understand and track role satisfaction, goal completion, achievements and any issues or barriers an employee might be facing.
At intelliHR, we send a monthly “performance check-in” which asks how happy an employee is in their current role, how they are progressing with their performance and goals, and if they need any support.
intelliHR also enables employees to set and track goals and measure goal completion rates, so if any employee isn’t reaching their goals, this might be an indication that something is up.
FREE DOWNLOAD: SMART (and flexible) goal setting worksheet
Returning from mental health leave
Taking leave to look after mental health is often treated very differently than when you’ve taken leave due to a physical health condition.
Unfortunately, significant stigma still exists surrounding mental health in the workplace and there’s also often a lot of self-stigma and shame that the person with the mental health issue experiences. This is why it’s not only important to keep talking about mental health in the workplace, but also essential to regularly check-in with the returning staff member to understand the hurdles they face and help ease the transition.
Make it measurable
If you’ve got a regular wellbeing pulse, this is an easy way to help monitor wellbeing, but if you want to take it a step further, you could create a tailored “return to work” pulse that can be used for any staff member returning to work – whether it’s after mental health leave, a physical injury, the return to the office after COVID-19, maternity/paternity leave, or a sabbatical. All of these circumstances can create stress and should be treated with patience, empathy and care.
Remember: Tech doesn’t solve everything, so don’t forget to complement pulse checks with 1:1 conversations. Face-to-face interactions are essential to wellbeing and connection, too.
Bonus tip to understand and improve mental health: Monitor completion rates
So you’ve been conducting all of these pulses and building up a rich picture of all of your employees… well, most of them.
If there are some employees who aren’t completing their check-ins, this might be an indication that something isn’t right and is worth a conversation in-person. It might be nothing, or they might not like the process (in which case you can use their feedback to improve it), but it also might be something.
Alternatively, if you have someone who usually completes their check-ins, but then all of a sudden fails to do so, this might also be cause for concern. Of course, they may have just missed it or forgotten, but one of the biggest indicators of poor mental health is someone not filling out a survey, because it’s just too hard.
In intelliHR, we track task completion rates, and managers are notified when team members fail to complete check-ins, so you can easily see who has and hasn’t checked in for that week or month.