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Mental health inclusivity in the workplace

Micah Gebreyes

Content & Community Manager, Greenhouse Software

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the US experience mental health conditions each year. That's a statistic that shouldn't be ignored – but, for some reason, it often is in the workplace.  

Remember the short email exchange about mental health between an employee and her employer that went viral? That post spoke to the rarity of productive mental health discussions in the workplace. People were impressed by the employee's bravery in asking for a mental health day, as well as her CEO's compassionate response.

Although mental health feels like a taboo topic, especially in the workplace, it doesn't have to be. Here are five ways to promote greater wellbeing through a more inclusive workplace to those dealing with mental health challenges.

1. Increase awareness by giving employees access to educational resources

Employees with mental health conditions want to feel like they've seen and understood. You can help create a supportive work environment by sharing resources or hosting training company-wide. Workplace Strategies for Mental Health's free helpful resources and videos can help reduce stigma, increase wellness, and improve workplace psychological health and safety.

Managers should attend relevant training to learn how to best approach employees dealing with mental health challenges. Although it's best to leave the advice to trained health professionals, they should at least understand how to have these types of discussions.

2. Include mental wellness in wellness benefits

Unfortunately, some workplace wellness programs often don't cover more serious mental health conditions that negatively affect employees. It's about more than providing discounted yoga classes.

If possible, provide health benefit options that can be tailored to individual needs, and ensure that psychiatrists and therapists are included in insurance plans.

There are also affordable initiatives you can weave into the workplace:

3. Encourage a healthy work-life blend

It's helpful to focus on achieving a work-life "blend" rather than a balance, as balance implies a perfect 50/50 split for accomplishing all work tasks, with enough time to walk your dog, meet with friends and get a full night's sleep. Employees may feel like they've failed if they haven't achieved it all.

With a fluid work-life blend, we create a more human and honest integration of work and life. At Greenhouse, we offer flexible work hours and environments where employees are empowered to make work work for them. No one needs to stress about getting the "side-eye" for leaving early for an already stressful doctor's appointment. When employees feel trusted and valued, they're happier, more productive workers.

4. Vocalize leadership's support in behavior changes

HR professionals have the power to create initiatives that can help change workplace behavior to be more inclusive. And company leadership is in a unique position to rally employees and share their support for a positive culture.

Words matter. One fundamental behavior change is ensuring you're using inclusive language that does not alienate those with mental health conditions. You can use this helpful guide to inclusive language and have leadership share out in company-wide messaging.

It's also essential that leadership strives to practice fairness toward everyone and recognizes that different people have different needs. For example, people coping with anxiety tend to thrive better when they feel prepared. Sharing a meeting agenda ahead of time allows them to know what to expect and puts them at greater ease.

5. Continuously track engagement to keep the pulse of employee morale

A culture of wellbeing is a must-have, but you won't know how to improve if you don't know where things currently stand. Opening up the conversation through anonymized, company-wide engagement surveys will help you get the pulse of employee sentiments.

At Greenhouse, we use Culture Amp to help measure employee engagement and well-being and identify appropriate actions to help our people be happier and more productive. We also share the results of the survey in our All Hands meetings to help create a culture of transparency and honesty and to pave the way forward.

Companies that invest in the mental health of their people are fostering positive environments that win top Talent. When all employees feel safe and seen, and heard, the entire organization thrives.

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