On making mental health talk part of your company culture

Amid a global pandemic, dedicating time and energy to employee mental wellbeing isn’t just good for your team, it’s absolutely necessary to the wellbeing of your organisation as a whole.

Koa Health
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2020 has been a difficult year worldwide, and at Koa Health, we’ve been reflecting on what exactly it means to take care of our teams moving forward. And we’ve reached the conclusion that mental wellbeing has to be a key component in everything we do from now on. Because without wellbeing, we're leaving our people at risk and we can do better.

Mental health issues are widespread.

According to Johns Hopkins, one in four adults experience mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates 18% of adults in the US have an anxiety disorder.

Think your team is the rare exception to the rule? It’s pretty unlikely. New Zealand’s Dunedin cohort study, a long-term (40+ years) project following participants from birth to middle age, reports even more widespread mental health issues83% of participants over the course of the study so far.

Supporting mental health for staff is a serious challenge for organisations of every size. And unfortunately, it’s made more complicated by society-wide taboos around discussing (or even mentioning) issues like anxiety, depression and stress, particularly in the workplace. At least in part because of these societal norms, many employees work hard to hide any mental health issues that they believe may influence (or be perceived to influence) the quality of their work.

Of course, for organisations to be able to offer the support their teams need, employees need to feel like it’s safe to open up, especially when they’re having a hard time. After all, you can’t help your employees with their mental wellbeing if they don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

A safe space in the workplace

Building a workplace environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and needs and being open about mental health issues will take time and effort.

But every journey starts with the all-important first steps. Create a safe space where your employees feel included, appreciated, and secure by implementing the best practices described below:

1. Promote open dialogue.

Make open communication across departments and levels an integral part of your company culture. Promote dialogue in meetings and gatherings so everyone’s voice is heard. Follow-through on commitments made, and when things don’t go as planned, make sure the person in charge takes ownership, explains, and if necessary, apologises to anyone affected.

women discussing and moving her hands

2. Earn trust to strengthen ties.

Do everything you can to ensure your staff feel like they can depend on your organisation (and management) to be even-handed and trustworthy. When employees trust their managers, they’re far more likely to ask for the support they need. Per the Harvard Business Review, another way to inspire trust in your team members is to extend your trust to them when it comes to doing their jobs without close supervision, aka no micromanaging.

3. Practise gratitude.

Share your appreciation when your team reaches the finish line, even if the results aren’t quite what you expected. Thank them for the work they’ve put in before you address what could have been better and how to improve moving forward. It’s a practice worth implementing— according to a study from Glass Door, gratitude doesn’t just make employees feel better about their work (and themselves), it may motivate them to work harder— 80% of the employees surveyed said they’re willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.

4. Incorporate wellbeing activities.

Invest in your team by incorporating wellbeing activities into working hours to show them that mental health is truly a priority in your workplace. Bring in an expert for a workshop or a conference or give staff access to an online or app-based mental health tool like Koa Foundations. Not only will this hopefully make mental health something that people talk about in the office, research shows it’s a good investment: $4 is returned to the economy for every $1 spent on mental health.

How is your organisation offering mental wellbeing support for your team? Let us know at info@koahealth.com.

about the author

Koa Health

The Team @ Koa Health

Our diverse team of developers, researchers, psychologists and behavioral health experts work together to create practical, thought-provoking content to accompany our range of digital therapeutics.