In recent years there's been increased attention paid to health and fitness in the workplace. Primarily, however, it's been of the physical kind. While there is ample evidence to suggest a strong link between physical and medical health, it's important that mental health is afforded its own place in the national consciousness -- particularly as May is Mental Health Month.
Despite the great strides that have been made in the treatment of mental illnesses in the past half-century, stigma remains. In fact, the majority of adults with mental illness go untreated for it, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. So what is a responsible, compassionate employer in a shared office setting to do to ensure that employees get and stay mentally healthy? Below are some suggestions to help.
If you think most people would prefer a work environment in which the boss was away much of the time, you're wrong. Employees both crave and need significant face time with the boss. In fact, in a recent study, "people who spent more time with their managers [had] higher levels of inspiration, engagement, innovation, and intrinsic motivation," writes The Muse contributor Erin Greenawald. So don't assume that because you're in frequent contact by email and phone those back-to-back business trips won't take their toll on your employees. Take the time and make the effort to visit and work in your shared office space with your team.
Give some space
So we said face-to-face time with your team was important, and it is -- but they need some breathing room, too, for optimum mental health. “One of the best ways to create a culture that supports mental health is to ensure people experience their jobs in a meaningful and purposeful way," Tomas Chamorro Premuzic, chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup, told Forbes. "This can be achieved by giving employees autonomy and resources. If your team experiences support and independence, and that you trust them to do what they ought to do, they will generally be happier at work, which will reduce the risk of mental health problems."
Tell them what you think
A whopping 65 percent of employees would like more feedback from their bosses than they currently receive, according to research conducted by employee-engagement firm Office Vibe. But the annual employee review can stir up anxiety and nervousness in even the most mentally healthy of employees. That may be in part because the employees in question don't know what to expect since they don't get enough regular, informal feedback from their boss. If you nip any major work-related issues in the bud with frequent face-to-face time (see "Be present," above), you can remove much of the anxiety that can accompany the word "feedback" -- and perhaps even turn it into something positive. Receiving and accepting an honest opinion can build trust, which can, in turn, help people grow both professionally and personally.
Champion work-life balance -- and mean it
It's one thing to rattle off truisms about working hard but playing harder, or about the family coming first, but it's quite another to mean them. Flexible schedules and understanding bosses can lessen anxiety and stress, which can reduce and prevent employee burnout. Does a solid employee who lives far from your shared office space need a day or two a week to work from home? Let them. Less stress can mean better mental health, and that one change may be all your employee needs.
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