When we think about mental health we usually think about anxiety, stress, and our daily mood.
Or, in the workplace, about burnout. However, mental health is a whole planet that extends beyond those surface-level concepts.
In reality, mental health involves six different moons. Those are:
- Physical wellbeing
- Emotional wellbeing
- Social wellbeing
- Intellectual wellbeing
- Occupational wellbeing
- Financial wellbeing
Just like oceans, our lives feel when any of those moons deviate. To live happy, balanced lives we must take care of each moon.
These six moons are also things that every leader, employer, or HR person needs to know about and proactively or reactively address.
At least, if they want to create and maintain a healthy, happy, and thriving workplace.
Shocking data from Lyra Healthcare reveals that 60% of workers say their mental health is affecting their work, while a mere 33% say they receive mental health care from their employer.
What’s worse, just half of managers report they have enough resources to support their team.
Luckily, there are resources like this one helping us change that. Before we start, we would like to thank our article contributors.
Allessandria Polizzi, Founder, and CEO at Verdant Consulting. A company that designs and offers award-winning corporate programs to develop resiliency, psychological safety, belonging, and workplace mental health.
Seb Ibarra, People Operations Manager at Kodify. A media company with more than 15 years of experience and 150 employees around the world who believe their success has all been thanks to their team and supportive culture.
Dr. Daniel Boscaljon, co-founder of the Healthy Relationship Academy. They work with businesses and organizations to foster healthy workplaces through innovative educational programs for leaders and wellness initiatives for staff and employees.
Right. Ready to talk mental health?
The six different areas of mental wellbeing
The human mind is more complex than just feelings and emotions, many factors affect it, both positively and negatively.
Below are the six areas of wellbeing you need to be aware of, each of which can be addressed, agitated, or soothed by management to improve the mental health of employees.
Physical wellbeing is the epitome of health. It’s the equilibrium achieved through regular exercise, a balanced diet, and proactively caring for diseases or injuries.
However, we must recognize the intricate link between the body and the mind.
Fostering physical health contributes significantly to an individual’s overall mental wellbeing.
Want some data? Studies have shown a 20-30% lower risk of depression and even dementia in adults who participate in daily physical activity.
Emotional wellbeing is what we all think about when we hear ‘mental health’.
But, emotional wellbeing is not just about your mood or what score you would give to how happy you are today.
It’s the understanding and effective management of our emotions. What does that involve?
Things like cultivating a positive emotional state, developing coping mechanisms for daily challenges, and fostering emotional intelligence.
Easier said than done, but they are paramount for our mental health.
Humans are social beings—there’s no denying that. As is to be expected, social connections weave into our mental health, defining our sense of belonging and support.
Social wellbeing involves the quality of our relationships, our community engagement, and the strength of our interpersonal bonds.
Recognizing and fostering positive social interactions contributes profoundly to a resilient and fulfilling mental state.
Even the renowned magazine Time mentions in their article titled: “Why Work Friends Are Crucial for Your Health:
“Research on the topic is clear: having friends in the workplace can not only boost job satisfaction and performance but also improve wellness. It’s linked to a lower risk of burnout, better mental health, fewer traumatic experiences, and maybe even a longer lifespan […].
On the flip side, the research is equally clear that loneliness is bad for your health. It’s often equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day […].
Even before the pandemic, she and her colleagues found that 76% of executives had difficulty making connections with colleagues and 58% felt their workplace relationships were superficial. Remote work seems to have exacerbated the situation.”
A positive social environment is one of the requirements for good mental—and physical—health.
Intellectual or cognitive wellbeing focuses on the mind’s faculties. Things like critical thinking, problem-solving, and even creative tasks belong to this sphere of health.
Nurturing cognitive wellbeing involves engaging in activities that stimulate mental sharpness, promote lifelong learning, and foster intellectual curiosity.
Caring for intellectual wellbeing helps people reap benefits in various areas of their lives, overall mental health included.
Being intellectually fit can also make you more resilient to the stresses of everyday life—and, believe us, there are plenty of those in the workplace!
Occupational wellbeing is much more than job satisfaction. It’s a holistic view of someone’s professional life.
It involves finding purpose and fulfillment in our careers and professional journey, balancing workload, and cultivating a positive work environment.
Addressing occupational wellbeing is all about creating a supportive, challenging, and fulfilling workplace (we’ll mention how to do this later on).
Money matters—that’s a fact. We’ve all been stressed at some point in our lives due to those bits of paper we all agree carry value.
More than half of employees (57%) mention finances as their top cause of stress in their lives.
With the current economy, our financial stress is becoming more of a concern. Even for those at the top.
A PwC Survey found that 15% of those earning at least $100,000 said they’re living paycheck to paycheck.
Now, imagine what that means for the rest of Americans earning the national average of $67,521.
For leaders, caring for their employees’ financial wellbeing is a must. Luckily, this is something you can do without necessarily having to spend more money.
We’ll mention some strategies below.
A micro business case for prioritizing mental health
Stats show that looking after your employees’ mental health is not only a nice thing to do for them.
It’s actually, pretty good for business too:
- Companies that invested in employee wellbeing saw a 5% increase in productivity and each dollar spent on wellness programs saved $3.27 in healthcare costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs.
- A study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), found that organizations that cared for their employees experienced reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (when a person goes to work but is too unwell to be productive) and increased job performance.
- Businesses that invested one dollar in programs to help employees address work-life conflicts saw an ROI of $1.68.
- According to APA’s 2023 Work in America, 92% of workers said it’s important to them to work for a company that values and supports their mental health.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 12 billion working days are lost annually to depression and anxiety—costing the economy $1 trillion in lost productivity.
In line with these stats, the ISO 45003 emphasizes the organizational consequences of psychosocial risks, such as:
- Higher costs related to absenteeism and staff turnover
- A reduction in product or service quality
- Higher spending on recruitment and training
- More workplace inquiries, legal actions, and potential harm to the organization’s reputation
For businesses, it’s crucial to start looking at mental health as another aspect of their safety in the workplace strategy.
Let’s take a look at how leaders can tell if teams need mental health support or attention.
Mental wellbeing: signs and triggers to look out for in your team
With more than half (55%) of workers stating that their employer thinks their workplace environment is a lot mentally healthier than it actually is—we know many can do better.
Knowing how to spot the signs and triggers of poor mental health in the workplace is a key skill to have as a leader, manager, or colleague.
It’s a proactive step toward creating a supportive workplace culture.
By staying vigilant and responsive to these symptoms, you can contribute to a workplace that not only values professional excellence, but also places a high regard on the mental health and overall wellbeing of its team members.
Here are some of the signs you need to be aware of:
- A sudden change in work quality
- Changes in communication norms
- Physical alterations that seem off to you
- Starting to arrive late
- Participating less in discussions
- Suddenly becoming angry, anxious, or emotional
- Showing disinterest toward work
- Changes in sleeping or eating behaviors
Additionally, absenteeism is a clear sign of things having gone off track. Allessandria Polizzi elaborates on this and points to a key change to look out for:
“Absenteeism is one red flag that people are struggling, as are increased conflicts and mistakes. One thing to listen for is the biggest culture killer: silence. If your employees aren’t speaking up, it’s usually because they don’t feel safe. One easy way to know if your employees are ok is to ask them and listen.”-Allessandria
When you spot any of these signs it’s time to act. However, you must understand what’s been going on in the past that’s brought you to this point.
Mental health doesn’t get affected immediately.
We’ve all dealt with stressful days at work, or sub-par interactions with colleagues, but when signs appear it’s because problems have persisted long enough without attention.
Mental health problems are like a snowball rolling down a hill. Initially, they’re small, little things we think we can breeze over.
However, with time, they can become a massive problem that can wreak havoc in someone’s life—figuratively and literally.
We’re not “combatting” mental health we’re supporting it
“We should emphasize messaging like ‘everyone needs more care.’ Everyone can get behind a message about expanding a sense of care and community.”Dr. Daniel Boscaljon, co-founder of the Healthy Relationship Academy
Even in 2023, there was still a lot of stigma around the word mental health.
In APA’s research, 43% of workers worried that if they opened up about a mental health condition with their employer it would have a negative impact on them in the workplace.
Something needs to change. There are a lot of resources that talk about “combatting” mental health, yet mental health struggles are ever present, and combatting them would be downright exhausting.
It isn’t something employers can combat, as combat ensues in moments of crisis.
It’s something we continuously need to support so that when life, or work, gets stressful, lonely, or hard, employees can navigate in a mature, resilient, and successful way.
“Ignoring the mental health of our workers until there is a crisis is the equivalent of ignoring their physical safety until they are injured. We need constant protection to help our teams thrive.”-Allessandria
Recommended tools, resources, and practices for creating a supportive workplace
We’ve recognized the significance and challenges of prioritizing the mental health of your employees.
Now, let’s look at six ways in which you can support it:
1. Consider a mental health support app
Seb Ibarra, People Operations Manager at Kodify, is a big fan of using technology to support employees’ mental health, especially when it allows them to get professional help whenever they need it.
“We have dedicated, private healthcare with mental health support and access to a psychologist 24/7 via an app. It’s all completely confidential,”
Check out some businesses that offer professional help to users:
Besides apps that allow employees to contact professional help, there are many other apps you can consider for proactive healthcare.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Headspace, Ten Percent Happier, or Calm: all offer guided meditations, podcasts, and self-help tools for users.
- Sona: a workplace management tool that allows employee check-ins, post-shift feedback, and more to create a culture of support.
- Happify: offers tools that use positive psychology, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and mindfulness to help employees better manage their mental health.
- Sanvello: offers self-care tools, peer support, coaching, and therapy to employees and management.
- MoodFit: offers tools, educational resources, and insights to help users better manage their mental health.
- Unmind: designed for the corporate world, the app uses clinical, organizational, and positive psychology to pinpoint wellbeing challenges and “empower the right people, with the right care.”
2. Support financial wellbeing where you can
Of course, one of the best ways to support financial wellbeing is by paying your employees better.
As Seb says, “We offer an above-average salary to support our employees’ financial wellbeing.”
However, higher pay won’t necessarily translate to improved financial wellness.
Without proper financial education, more cash going in won’t necessarily mean improved financial wellbeing.
Here are a few ways you can support your employees’ financial wellbeing:
- Offer a financial wellness program that offers tools, resources, and expert guidance to improve your employees financial literacy.
- Offer benefits that impact financial wellness—health insurance, retirement plans, disability insurance, or even student loan repayment benefits.
- Give financial perks at work—discounts at coffee shops, gym passes, free lunches, work-from-home budgets, etc.
Don’t forget to remind your employees about the benefits available, and make it clear that they can always come to you in case they need guidance with major life purchases like buying a house, making smart investments, improving their credit score, or anything else.
Maybe you don’t have the answers, but you may know someone who does and can work on a financial wellbeing workshop tailored to them that you offer to the entire team.
3. Promote an open workplace culture
The professional and private lives of employees (all of us) are so connected that trying to permanently build a wall between the two will impact both negatively.
This is where promoting an open workplace culture is key.
“We have a strong culture of openness, community and friendship. We do off-/on-sites every year to connect with colleagues internationally.
And we also have a strong anti-micromanagement philosophy! All these things contribute to a safe, strong mental health environment,”-Seb
This is a top-down approach. Leaders must start. Talk openly about mental health and wellness at work.
Talk openly about everyday struggles at work. Be vulnerable, be human, and your employees will follow suit.
4. Run mental health awareness campaigns
As the popular proverb goes, “Knowledge is power.” A key way to support mental health is by providing education and awareness around it.
Sometimes even just understanding the 10 cognitive distortions (for example, all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, or blaming) that exist that lead to negative thinking are enough to understand that our minds can make things worse than they actually are.
Additionally, mental health awareness campaigns give people the resources to develop the literacy and tools needed to help themselves and even others.
Lastly, it can help debunk some myths and stigmas around mental health.
These types of myths and wrong prejudices that, sadly, still exist in the world can be damaging for those suffering with mental disorders but also to anyone else who might need support in the future.
“As a workplace leader, you can always address your team as a whole without singling out a specific individual. Emphasize in team meetings what resources are available to protect mental wellness, especially during periods of high stress.
It can also help to talk about the steps you take to protect your own mental health. Workers often take cues from their leaders. So it is important for leaders to set the tone for what they want to see in the workplace.”Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., President & CEO at SHRM
The “Mental Health at Work: What Can I Do?” campaign is an educational initiative promoting healthy workplaces nationwide, emphasizing employers’ roles in supporting employees’ mental health post-COVID-19.
It includes materials like posters and videos, with a PSA video highlighting strategies such as setting an inclusive tone, offering assistance, providing support, and communicating needs for effective performance.
Additionally, other nationwide campaigns that are good to keep in mind are:
- Mental Health Month: May
- National Suicide Prevention Week: September
- Mental Illness Awareness Week, World Mental Health Day, National Depression Screening Day: October
You can stay informed by following mental health organizations like MHA on social media or subscribing to their email lists.
Additionally, you can access free resources from these organizations to distribute to employees during awareness campaigns.
5. Implement employee assistance programs EAPs
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are programs that are there for your employees in case they’re ever dealing with personal or job-related issues.
EAPs provide free and private assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up help to all.
However, EAPs mustn’t be the only tool in your mental health support toolkit.
“Do not think that an EAP and mental health first aid are the only way to address workplace mental health.
While useful for those in crisis, these lack the proactive and protective approach needed to prevent or at least minimize the psychological strains of the workplace.”-Allessandria
Launch training for managers and leaders
“The best place to start with any investment is in leadership training. This has been shown to have the biggest ROI for the business.
And I don’t mean just training leaders on how to care for their teams; they first need to learn skills about how to care for themselves. Burned-out leaders wreak havoc on their teams and the business at large.”-Allessandria
There are many ways you can train yourself and the other leaders at your company to better address and understand mental health.
It’s all about understanding how to efficiently support an employee’s mental wellbeing.
Know your metrics to understand your workplace success
Now that you’ve put some new measures in place, how can you know if they’re working?
Well, you have to think beyond job satisfaction. Look at turnover, employee engagement rates, organizational performance, and even a reduction in absenteeism or sick days taken by your employees.
“One way to measure the effectiveness of wellness programs is to look at objective factors related to retention and engagement.
Companies succeeding at wellness initiatives have low turnover and high engagement.”-Dr. Daniel Boscaljon
However, he also mentions that not everything will be a hard number or stat, sometimes you have to see beyond the metrics.
“It’s also helpful to take a qualitative approach and get an instant sense of the tone of an office or department. If things feel stressed, there’s probably an issue.
If it feels relaxed and natural, things are probably on the right track,”
Remember to simply ask your employees how things are going. Implement (anonymous) feedback forms and pulse checks, and track if things improve with time.
Ensuring a happier, healthier, and more productive future at work starts with mental health
We spend most of our lives at work, talking about work, or with people from our work.
Ensuring our workplaces are something that supports employees’ mental health will have a huge positive impact on their lives—and your business.
Be mindful of the six areas of health described here and the recommended tools and tactics we’ve shared; your employees will thank you for implementing them.
Lastly, work alongside your employees to ensure they—and your company—are on the same path to a happily ever after.