More than one third of Americans experience symptoms of depression and anxiety — and the impacts are widespread, including one’s ability to be productive. The financial implication of this is significant. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that $1 trillion (about $3,100 per person in the US) is lost each year due to mental health-related unproductivity.  

The good news: Workplaces that promote mental health and support their employees’ wellness journeys can make a huge difference. As a result, they’re more likely to benefit from happier, healthier, and more productive employees. It’s truly a win-win all around.  

So how do you support employee mental wellness? A robust employee wellness plan sounds good on paper, but it isn’t always as easy to enact. After working with hundreds of companies to build out their wellness programs, we’ve learned a few tips. 

Here’s how to support employee mental health through workplace wellness initiatives: 

  • Clarify working hour expectations 

  • Empower employees to take micro breaks 

  • Make resources easily accessible 

  • Lead by example to avoid “secondhand stress” 

  • Strengthen belonging at work 

  • Encourage volunteering opportunities and “giving back” 

  • Optimize wellness initiatives on a regular basis 

  • Emphasize work-life balance 

Clarify working hour expectations 

It’s no secret that working and non-working hours can easily blend together, whether you’re out of a routine or simply overloaded. This cycle can be hard to break, but it starts with the employer making it extremely clear to employees of when they are expected to be “on.” 

Do you have a distributed team? If so, encourage everyone to post their working hours in one shared location – Slack profile is a great option. This sets expectations around when teammates can expect a response, alleviating early morning or late-night working obligations.  

Empower employees to take micro breaks 

Whether your team is working from home or in the office, calendars are as full as ever. Even a one- minute break to pause and breathe is an invaluable tool to help eliminate stress. 

When your calendar has back-to-back meetings, odds are you’re missing out on a break and causing more stress than necessary. One meeting runs over or one unexpected email comes through and suddenly your whole day’s plan is thrown off. If you can implement the “5 Minutes After” policy at your company (or even just within your team), employees will have 5 minutes of breathing room between when their last meeting ends and the next one begins. 10:00AM or 10:05AM, it’s really all the same—right? 

Make resources easily accessible 

As a company, offer ongoing workshops, informational resources, and access to local professionals to provide various levels of help to assist with the personal nature of each employees’ experience. Prioritizing mental health also means making sure leaders are aware of how to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges. 

Lead by example to avoid “secondhand stress” 

Speaking of leaders, it’s important to note that wellness initiatives "start at the top.” This is true for successful corporate wellness programs, and it’s unfortunately true for normalized stress or anxiety. 

If company leaders are sending emails late into the night, running from meeting-to-meeting, or noticeably stretched thin, that strain will be passed along to employees in the form of “secondhand stress.” We know leaders are humans too, so the goal isn’t to strive for perfection but rather for them to be vulnerable with employees about the boundaries they maintain. 

Strengthen belonging at work 

When you consider how much time employees spend at work, a lack of belonging can lead to significant loneliness. Strong social connections make people happier and physically healthier, which can translate into work performance. As an organization, support social connections by promoting collaboration as well as hosting events, volunteer opportunities (more on that next), sports activities, challenges, and more.  

Encourage volunteering opportunities and “giving back” 

Studies show volunteering improves mental health. When companies reserve time for their employees to give back, they’re not only helping the organizations being served, but they’re also giving employees the opportunity to improve their mood. Encourage employees to engage in community service or volunteering activities as a team or individually.

Highlight wellness initiatives in a BIG way  

Too often, a corporate wellness program is announced in a one-off email or part of a larger list of updates, but to really make a bang with employees, pair the announcement with a mandatory event. Of course, the benefit itself doesn’t need to be mandatory, but employees should be given the information in a way that’s sure to reach everyone. A great example of this is an all-company team meeting. Odds are these meetings are required and the vast majority of employees will be present.  

Optimize wellness initiatives on a regular basis 

Don’t forget to keep a pulse on your wellness initiatives and refresh when needed. Run fitness challenges, incentivize teams to do mindful sessions or workouts together, or tap a few wellness lovers internally to serve as “brand ambassadors” for the program.  

Emphasize work-life balance 

Healthy workplaces understand and encourage a healthy work-life balance. While there’s plenty of work to be done, driving employees to burnout only hurts your organization in the long run. Companies that provide sufficient personal leave time, mental health days, and other opportunities to enjoy life outside of work have employees that are more balanced and productive when it’s time to get to work. 

Mental health is one of the most significant parts of achieving complete wellness. Businesses have a responsibility to help foster a healthy work environment that encourages mental wellness. 

The ClassPass Corporate Wellness Program provides physical and mental wellness options that empower employees to build more balanced professional and personal lives. Contact our team to learn more. 

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