Why You Need to Protect Employees with a Mental Wellness Program

What does employee wellness look like to you? For some employers, employee wellness programs focus solely on improving one’s physical health through exercise, better eating habits, and cleaner living. However, that is only one part of the equation. You also need to protect employees with a mental wellness program.

This infographic from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) takes on the challenge of explaining how mental wellness plays a critical a role in the workplace.

mental wellness program infographic

When an employee’s mental health is compromised, it can result in any number of issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Pain in the body
  • Sleeplessness
  • Substance abuse
  • Accidents on the job
  • Isolation
  • Irritability

As an employer, it is to your advantage if your employees to feel well. When they do not feel well, they do not perform well, and everyone in your organization is affected. Let’s take a look at how unaddressed mental health problems can impact your workplace and how a mental wellness program can turn things around for the better.

The Scary State of Mental Health Problems in the Workplace

In that same infographic from the CCOHS, they uncovered some startling statistics about how mental health affects your employees and the workplace:

  • 77% of Canadian workers do not feel confident enough to speak with management about mental health problems.
  • Mental health problems that go unchecked cost Canadians $50 billion every year.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the U.S. faces similar issues in the workplace:

  • 1 in 25 adults deals with serious mental illnesses each year.
  • Those serious mental health issues cost the U.S. $193.2 billion each year.

Mental health issues are costly for workplaces, too. When employees are repeatedly absent, unproductive, unreliable, or become disinterested in work, your ability to run an effective operation is compromised.

For those of you wondering why employees do not seek help when they know it is needed, it is essential to recognize the stigma often associated with mental unwellness. Some worry about losing the respect of employers if they report mental health issues. Others are concerned with retaliation or termination. And still, there are some who do not want to deal with it for fear that taking time off will only compound the stress they experience at work.

mental wellness program stressed employee

So, what can be done to reduce this costly epidemic that workplaces and your employees face? Developing a corporate wellness program that incorporates mental wellness initiatives as much as it does physical ones is a great place to start.

Here are some ideas on how you can create, or improve, your companies mental wellness program:

Mental Health Benefits – Your employees’ health benefits programs should include mental health services. If they do not, think about an ancillary employee discount program so they can seek out the help of mental health providers in the community.

Employee Assistance Program – If you already have an EAP in place, be sure it is equipped with mental wellness assistance efforts. This might include 24/7 access to an on-call nurse as well as drug and alcohol assistance programs.

Financial Education Programs – Money can be a huge stressor for employees. While there isn’t much you can do to change how much they make, providing them with a financial education program as well as access to advisors would give them the tools to better manage their personal finances.

Sleep Wellness Program – According to the to a lack of sleep. Decision-making skills and productivity can also be compromised. If a sleep wellness program is not currently on the radar, it should be.

mental wellness program and sleep

Assess the Triggers – Unnecessary stressors and triggers at work should be avoided. Survey your employees and see if there are common issues they report (like late hours, unachievable goals, physical safety hazards, abusive customers, and so on). Then create a plan that minimizes exposure to those.

Rewards and Incentives – By recognizing individual contributions, offering incentives for high achievement, and helping employees play to their strengths, you can make the workplace a more welcome environment. It is also helpful to do things like optimizing workflows, restructure tasks, and define roles to avoid any unnecessary confusion or stress.

Communication Plan – Your management team should be trained on how to communicate with employees who report mental health issues. Teach them the proper way to confidentially and empathetically engage with these employees.

mental wellness program communication

Company Newsletter – Keep mental health top-of-mind with employees by sending out regular newsletters that contain tips and best practices for eating right, working out, reducing stress at work, practicing better sleep hygiene, and so on.

Mindfulness Activities – To encourage employees to take better care of their mental well-being, make it a priority of focus from the top down. Show them that mental wellness is a priority by building breaks into the daily schedule, planning yoga and other mindfulness social activities, and building a supportive community of peers.

Your employees’ mental wellness needs to take priority in the coming year. While you cannot force anyone to be responsible for their own well-being, you can encourage healthier lifestyle choices and workplace habits with a mental wellness program.

As the President and Founder of Sleepwell Consulting Inc. Amanda is a Sleep Educator who works with companies of all sizes to help promote better sleep and better business.

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