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How Your Business Can Support Mental Wellbeing Without Breaking the Bank

October 4, 2022

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Did you know that 87% of employees think actions from their employer would help their mental health? That’s why this October 10th — the 30th anniversary of World Mental Health Day — is more important than ever for business leaders.

It’s a time to raise awareness, reduce stigmas, and strive for equitable resources that make mental health care a reality for people across the globe.

You might see government or NGO (Non-Government Organizations) sponsored events aimed at bringing together the community. Public sector groups may launch new initiatives to drive progress on this year’s theme — making mental health and well-being for all a global priority. And social media, from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook, will likely be filled with mental well-being hashtags.

As a co-leader of Trainual’s mental wellbeing affinity group and someone who struggles with mental illness, the messages and resources shared on this day directly impact my world. Reducing stigmas around mental health at work is a passion of mine, particularly after an acute flare up of anxiety and depression forced me to exit the workforce for a short period of time in 2014. Because of the support I received from my employer at the time, I was able to take care of myself and then come back (and flourish!) in a sustainable way.

But as a small business leader, what should you be doing? And candidly, what CAN you be doing given the uncertain business climate and increased costs at every turn? In research conducted by Goldman Sachs last year, only 19% of small business owners said they could afford to provide employees with sufficient mental health resources. If you’re in this boat, the good news is there are plenty of ways you can start supporting your employees’ mental wellbeing without tapping out that Platinum Amex. The secret: culture.

How important is it?

It can feel daunting to add another thing on your to-do list. But tackling mental wellbeing at your company can’t wait, and there are stats to prove it, thanks to Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work report:

  • Mental health is affecting more employees than ever. 76% of full-time U.S. workers experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition in 2021, up from 59% in 2019.
  • It’s impacting performance. 77% of respondents indicated that their productivity was negatively impacted by their mental health — a rise of 16 percentage points from 2019.
  • It’s hurting retention. If you’re struggling to keep workers now, ignoring mental wellbeing won’t help. 50% of respondents left previous jobs due at least in part to mental health reasons — that includes 32% who voluntarily left.
  • It’s expected. 90% of respondents said that when job-seeking, a prospective company’s culture should support mental health. Yep, that’s almost everyone.

On the upside, addressing mental wellbeing at work can have huge payoffs — from greater job satisfaction and better performance to positive views of leadership and a higher likelihood of staying with a company.

Plus, more businesses are realizing that mental health is a package deal when hiring humans. So, until your team is 100% droid, it’s going to remain important.

A woman looking at the camera and saying, "It's a big deal."

Okay, where do I start?

One place where you can have an immediate impact with low monetary investment is through your company culture. And we have three steps to get you going: Ask. Model. Support.

Ask (But do it anonymously).

First up: ask. Don’t assume you know how your employees feel, what their experience with mental wellbeing is personally or at work, or whether they feel supported. You know what they say about assuming…

Since this is such a sensitive topic and stigmas abound, getting real, honest feedback requires psychological safety. This is not the right topic for a public, all-company meeting or for a quick check-in around the water cooler. Especially as you start, anonymity will be key.

A brief, anonymous survey (Google Forms are a great option!) could be one approach to getting input while protecting privacy. I’ve also seen companies place a physical feedback box in the office, where employees can drop their thoughts at any time (like those “how are we doing?” boxes you see in stores and restaurants). Of course, you need to make sure your employees believe you’ll honor anonymity and not try to “track down” who said what.

At Trainual, we handle anonymity through our Mental Matters affinity group — a space to come together, judgment free, and talk about the realities of actively managing mental wellbeing. Anyone can join, but only members of the group know the full roster. Additionally, we use Slack for open and honest communication about mental wellbeing. At times, we’ll ping the group for feedback, and that gets summarized and shared to business leaders by myself or my co-lead (since we’re identified as members to the wider company). Safe place? Check. Real feedback? Check. Anonymity intact? Check.

Model.

For employees to believe the organization values mental wellbeing, you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. And by you, we mean you — the leader of your business.

As Rachel Richardson*, a Mental Matters member, shared:

“My least favorite aspect of how some small businesses view mental wellbeing is the adaptation that their way of grinding is how their employees should interact with the work. Question for you: Have you become a power-through, zero excuses, bulldozing kind of entrepreneur that doesn’t have time to focus on “wellbeing”? If so, your people likely believe you expect the same from them. What works for you (AKA the power-house 24/7 entrepreneur) may not work for the wellbeing of your people. One way to help: Build guardrails (mostly for yourself) to protect them.”

So, step back and examine the messages you’re sending around prioritizing mental wellbeing. You can start modeling a better approach by:

  • Taking short breaks and letting your team know when you’re stepping away to refresh your brain.
  • Scheduling emails to send only during work hours. That way your team isn’t pinged at midnight (and feel pressured to respond).
  • Using vacation and mental health days (if you offer them) and not checking in unless there’s an emergency. 
  • Sharing resources you come across — articles, books, even TikTok videos — that feature helpful techniques for self-care.
  • Publicly acknowledging days like World Mental Health Day and giving reasons why it personally matters to you.

All these steps show a commitment to a way of work that’s challenging without being unsustainable. And it matters for you as much as for your employees — 53% of small business owners say they’ve felt mentally exhausted in the past year running their company (raise your hand if you relate).

A man asking a woman, "Lead by example. Can I trust you with that?"

Support.

The final step is ensuring that you and all your employees consistently support each other when it comes to mental health. What do we mean by consistent?

  • It’s ongoing. Regardless of the time of year or state of the business, teammates prioritize mental health.
  • It’s uniform. No matter who they talk to or who their manager is, an employee’s experience when discussing mental health will be the same.

This isn’t the experience for many employees; the study from Mind Share found that while there was a sharp increase in the percentage of people who talked about their mental health at work (65% vs. 40% in 2019), only about half said the experience was positive (49%). And that remained unchanged from two years ago.

Dacey Nolan*, another member of Mental Matters, shared how her experience vastly differed between one employer to another:

“I had an unexpected family crisis; I got the call early on a work day, alerted my boss to what was going on, and let them know I needed to attend to the situation. While I was out, my work contacted me nonstop, asking if I knew when I was coming back. This was so disrespectful. When I tried to use PTO for the leave, they denied it saying I left so abruptly it put them in a bind. This employer was not sympathetic, and made comments stating that I shouldn’t be upset about what I was going through.

When I had a health crisis at Trainual, my manager told me to take all the time I needed. After I came back to work, they reached out saying I could take more time if that would help. I explained the best thing was getting back to normal, and they supported my decision. They didn’t ask about the situation, knowing it could be triggering. Instead, they said ‘If you ever want to talk about it, please know that we are here.’”

To ensure your employees feel supported, especially during periods of time where they may be struggling with mental wellbeing — from a loss, trauma, mental health condition, or anything else! — focus on crafting clear policies (we know a great tool you can use to do that 😉). This increases transparency, so team members know exactly what to expect before, during, and after they need assistance.

Training and onboarding are also critical, particularly with managers. Use the information gained from your employees to craft your approach. Provide guides on what to say and what not to say — both from a legal and human perspective – leveraging the amazing work already done by non-profits in the mental health space. And make sure leaders know what resources are available to employees, where to find them, and how to access them. This includes both what’s included in your benefits package and/or one of several public-health solutions like those available through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Ask. Model. Support. It’s a great way to start on your journey toward building an inclusive mental health culture.

Looking for more resources to get going? We’ve compiled a handful that Mental Matters members find helpful here.

*Note: All members opted-in to providing quotes and being identified in this article.

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Article

How Your Business Can Support Mental Wellbeing Without Breaking the Bank

October 4, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
Sign up for our newsletter
You're all signed up! Look out for the next edition of The Manual Weekly coming Wednesday am!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Did you know that 87% of employees think actions from their employer would help their mental health? That’s why this October 10th — the 30th anniversary of World Mental Health Day — is more important than ever for business leaders.

It’s a time to raise awareness, reduce stigmas, and strive for equitable resources that make mental health care a reality for people across the globe.

You might see government or NGO (Non-Government Organizations) sponsored events aimed at bringing together the community. Public sector groups may launch new initiatives to drive progress on this year’s theme — making mental health and well-being for all a global priority. And social media, from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook, will likely be filled with mental well-being hashtags.

As a co-leader of Trainual’s mental wellbeing affinity group and someone who struggles with mental illness, the messages and resources shared on this day directly impact my world. Reducing stigmas around mental health at work is a passion of mine, particularly after an acute flare up of anxiety and depression forced me to exit the workforce for a short period of time in 2014. Because of the support I received from my employer at the time, I was able to take care of myself and then come back (and flourish!) in a sustainable way.

But as a small business leader, what should you be doing? And candidly, what CAN you be doing given the uncertain business climate and increased costs at every turn? In research conducted by Goldman Sachs last year, only 19% of small business owners said they could afford to provide employees with sufficient mental health resources. If you’re in this boat, the good news is there are plenty of ways you can start supporting your employees’ mental wellbeing without tapping out that Platinum Amex. The secret: culture.

How important is it?

It can feel daunting to add another thing on your to-do list. But tackling mental wellbeing at your company can’t wait, and there are stats to prove it, thanks to Mind Share Partners’ 2021 Mental Health at Work report:

  • Mental health is affecting more employees than ever. 76% of full-time U.S. workers experienced at least one symptom of a mental health condition in 2021, up from 59% in 2019.
  • It’s impacting performance. 77% of respondents indicated that their productivity was negatively impacted by their mental health — a rise of 16 percentage points from 2019.
  • It’s hurting retention. If you’re struggling to keep workers now, ignoring mental wellbeing won’t help. 50% of respondents left previous jobs due at least in part to mental health reasons — that includes 32% who voluntarily left.
  • It’s expected. 90% of respondents said that when job-seeking, a prospective company’s culture should support mental health. Yep, that’s almost everyone.

On the upside, addressing mental wellbeing at work can have huge payoffs — from greater job satisfaction and better performance to positive views of leadership and a higher likelihood of staying with a company.

Plus, more businesses are realizing that mental health is a package deal when hiring humans. So, until your team is 100% droid, it’s going to remain important.

A woman looking at the camera and saying, "It's a big deal."

Okay, where do I start?

One place where you can have an immediate impact with low monetary investment is through your company culture. And we have three steps to get you going: Ask. Model. Support.

Ask (But do it anonymously).

First up: ask. Don’t assume you know how your employees feel, what their experience with mental wellbeing is personally or at work, or whether they feel supported. You know what they say about assuming…

Since this is such a sensitive topic and stigmas abound, getting real, honest feedback requires psychological safety. This is not the right topic for a public, all-company meeting or for a quick check-in around the water cooler. Especially as you start, anonymity will be key.

A brief, anonymous survey (Google Forms are a great option!) could be one approach to getting input while protecting privacy. I’ve also seen companies place a physical feedback box in the office, where employees can drop their thoughts at any time (like those “how are we doing?” boxes you see in stores and restaurants). Of course, you need to make sure your employees believe you’ll honor anonymity and not try to “track down” who said what.

At Trainual, we handle anonymity through our Mental Matters affinity group — a space to come together, judgment free, and talk about the realities of actively managing mental wellbeing. Anyone can join, but only members of the group know the full roster. Additionally, we use Slack for open and honest communication about mental wellbeing. At times, we’ll ping the group for feedback, and that gets summarized and shared to business leaders by myself or my co-lead (since we’re identified as members to the wider company). Safe place? Check. Real feedback? Check. Anonymity intact? Check.

Model.

For employees to believe the organization values mental wellbeing, you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. And by you, we mean you — the leader of your business.

As Rachel Richardson*, a Mental Matters member, shared:

“My least favorite aspect of how some small businesses view mental wellbeing is the adaptation that their way of grinding is how their employees should interact with the work. Question for you: Have you become a power-through, zero excuses, bulldozing kind of entrepreneur that doesn’t have time to focus on “wellbeing”? If so, your people likely believe you expect the same from them. What works for you (AKA the power-house 24/7 entrepreneur) may not work for the wellbeing of your people. One way to help: Build guardrails (mostly for yourself) to protect them.”

So, step back and examine the messages you’re sending around prioritizing mental wellbeing. You can start modeling a better approach by:

  • Taking short breaks and letting your team know when you’re stepping away to refresh your brain.
  • Scheduling emails to send only during work hours. That way your team isn’t pinged at midnight (and feel pressured to respond).
  • Using vacation and mental health days (if you offer them) and not checking in unless there’s an emergency. 
  • Sharing resources you come across — articles, books, even TikTok videos — that feature helpful techniques for self-care.
  • Publicly acknowledging days like World Mental Health Day and giving reasons why it personally matters to you.

All these steps show a commitment to a way of work that’s challenging without being unsustainable. And it matters for you as much as for your employees — 53% of small business owners say they’ve felt mentally exhausted in the past year running their company (raise your hand if you relate).

A man asking a woman, "Lead by example. Can I trust you with that?"

Support.

The final step is ensuring that you and all your employees consistently support each other when it comes to mental health. What do we mean by consistent?

  • It’s ongoing. Regardless of the time of year or state of the business, teammates prioritize mental health.
  • It’s uniform. No matter who they talk to or who their manager is, an employee’s experience when discussing mental health will be the same.

This isn’t the experience for many employees; the study from Mind Share found that while there was a sharp increase in the percentage of people who talked about their mental health at work (65% vs. 40% in 2019), only about half said the experience was positive (49%). And that remained unchanged from two years ago.

Dacey Nolan*, another member of Mental Matters, shared how her experience vastly differed between one employer to another:

“I had an unexpected family crisis; I got the call early on a work day, alerted my boss to what was going on, and let them know I needed to attend to the situation. While I was out, my work contacted me nonstop, asking if I knew when I was coming back. This was so disrespectful. When I tried to use PTO for the leave, they denied it saying I left so abruptly it put them in a bind. This employer was not sympathetic, and made comments stating that I shouldn’t be upset about what I was going through.

When I had a health crisis at Trainual, my manager told me to take all the time I needed. After I came back to work, they reached out saying I could take more time if that would help. I explained the best thing was getting back to normal, and they supported my decision. They didn’t ask about the situation, knowing it could be triggering. Instead, they said ‘If you ever want to talk about it, please know that we are here.’”

To ensure your employees feel supported, especially during periods of time where they may be struggling with mental wellbeing — from a loss, trauma, mental health condition, or anything else! — focus on crafting clear policies (we know a great tool you can use to do that 😉). This increases transparency, so team members know exactly what to expect before, during, and after they need assistance.

Training and onboarding are also critical, particularly with managers. Use the information gained from your employees to craft your approach. Provide guides on what to say and what not to say — both from a legal and human perspective – leveraging the amazing work already done by non-profits in the mental health space. And make sure leaders know what resources are available to employees, where to find them, and how to access them. This includes both what’s included in your benefits package and/or one of several public-health solutions like those available through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Ask. Model. Support. It’s a great way to start on your journey toward building an inclusive mental health culture.

Looking for more resources to get going? We’ve compiled a handful that Mental Matters members find helpful here.

*Note: All members opted-in to providing quotes and being identified in this article.

Article

How Your Business Can Support Mental Wellbeing Without Breaking the Bank

October 4, 2022

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