. It was a subject that many people were hesitant to talk about unless they were behind closed doors. The general belief was that problems like anxiety and depression didn’t affect the average person. These days, that perception has dramatically changed as more information about mental illness has come to light.
Mental health issues are surprisingly common, affecting as many as 44 million adults annually. Major depression impacts 16 million adults in America, while 42 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Chronic mental illness typically begins relatively early in life, with symptoms appearing before the age of 14 in 50% of cases, and before the age of 24 in 75% of cases. Depression is the number one disability in the world. Annually, more than $193 billion are lost in earnings as a result of mental health issues. This is a problem that affects everyone.
In terms of my own issues with depression and anxiety, I have always worked to be as open as possible. I am in a unique position to help other people understand that they aren’t the only ones dealing with these issues.
The tragic stories of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have brought these issues further into public awareness, as have the ongoing problems with shootings in schools.
The time for business owners, managers, and executives to be quiet has passed. Today, true leaders are working hard to remove misconceptions about mental illness in the workplace. If you own a business, here are some tips y
1. Evaluate Your Company’s Culture
Researchers and psychiatrists have found that the three basic things employees need are to feel like they are important, to feel like they are part of the crowd, and to feel like they work in a safe environment. Meeting these needs dramatically increases loyalty from employees.
The statistics back this up. Employees who work for companies that prioritize trust are less stressed, more energetic, more productive, and more engaged. They take sick days less often and are more satisfied with life, meaning that they are much less likely to burnout.
2. Build A Space Where Mental Health Is Valued
More and more major organizations are realizing just how important mental health is. Companies like Google, Nike, and Apple all teach their employees about mindfulness. There are a number of different ways that you can bring the concepts of mindfulness and meditation into the workplace.
Ideally, you should also work to create a space where employees know that their mental health matters. Make sure that breaks are frequent enough to keep people from burning out. Instead of having meetings in conference rooms, try setting them up outdoors or having people meet while taking a walk. Make sure employees know that it is okay for them to take time off for their mental health if they need to.
3. Create Room In Your Budget For Fun
The initial stages of starting my first business, Information Experts, were quite stressful. In order to help deal with that stress, we set up a committee of people whose primary purpose was to plan fun activities for employees. Participating in these activities together helped relieve stress, improving productivity and creating a much better company culture.
4. View Employees As People
The best CEOs are the ones who not only run their businesses but who also view their employees as real people with real issues. Even the best employees bring a lot of issues along with them when they are hired. It is a natural part of being human and living life. You can only tell so much about a person from reading their resume or conducting a short interview. Everyone you hire is much more complex than the information portrayed in their resume.
One way to make your employees feel more supported is by understanding that they have emotional needs and that they have a life outside of their jobs. By working to understand the types of issues that trigger mental health problems in employees, you can help create a healthier work environment where people can get the support that they need and where employees feel comfortable being themselves.
5. Establish Mental Health Resources For Your Business
One client that I work with is in charge of operating a center that provides services to cancer patients and their families. As you can well imagine, working for a business like this can be an extremely emotional experience. Up until we started working together, the company didn’t have a way for employees to let their emotions out. Today, however, the company has discussion groups where employees can talk about how their jobs are affecting them, both personally and professionally. Providing an opportunity for employees to talk about their feelings can result in much greater job satisfaction and a much more engaged workforce.