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When crafting strategy; it is important for organizations to include a mental health and wellbeing strategy for staff. There are immense benefits associated with creating mentally healthy workplaces. Staff are able to do their best work, and make significant contributions to the success of organizations. Lack of attention to employee mental health, leads to increase in cases of breakdowns. This contributes to workplace challenges, such as; increased absenteeism, increase in error rates, reduced productivity, destructive conflict, poor service delivery, increased health costs, employee death (in severe cases) and a general decline in organizational performance.

Everyone has a role to play in creating a mentally healthy workplace; The board of directors, executive management, senior managers, middle managers and employees. It is however the responsibility of senior leadership, to drive this initiative, as culture is largely shaped by their actions and inactions.  Employee mental health and well-being should be a strategic priority, which leaders pay attention to, on a daily basis. A highly supportive workplace will help employees maintain a green state on the mental health continuum. This is an indication of a high state of well-being.

Senior leaders can pursue the following practices, to promote employee mental health and well-being in their organizations.

1. Organize Mental Health Awareness Programs

This can take the form of mental-health seminars, which are organized periodically, for all members of staff to attend. Health practitioners, such as; public health specialists, psychologists, psychiatrists and safety experts, can be facilitators at these events. The seminars should aim at; demystifying mental health challenges using current Nigerian case studies, helping employers and employees identify risk factors, and understanding modes of prevention and treatment for different types and stages of mental health cases.

2.  Use Organizational Design as a Tool to Support Staff Mental Health

The design of an organization is the manner in which it is intentionally arranged, to accomplish a set of goals. Organizations can be designed to support the mental health and well-being of employees, by adopting the following measures:

Role Clarity to Reduce Feelings of Anxiety

Employees should have complete clarity about their roles and responsibilities. It’s also important that reporting lines support the ease of work. Cases where employees are arbitrarily assigned to tasks, with no clear job description and vague reporting relationships, should be avoided. Changes in roles should be promptly communicated, through the appropriate platform.

A Good Measure of Employee Control over Their Work

A common cause of workplace stress, is excessive managerial control. Employees should be involved with decisions relating to their work. They should be allowed to function freely within their skills and capabilities. Micromanaging is a morale dampener and creativity killer, and should be avoided by managers. Flexible work arrangements can be introduced, to aid work-life balance 

A Manpower Development Plan

It is important for organizations to implement a robust manpower development plan, to close skill gaps, and enhance employee productivity. This developmental investment is a strong workplace motivator. It helps to address feelings of inadequacy, which can lead to anxiety about work tasks.

Availability of Work Resources

All resources required to work effectively should be made available in a timely manner. This includes; technology, furniture, equipment such as photocopier and printers, and telephone lines.

3. Create a Humane Workplace Culture

  • Pursue a culture that discourages stigma, and discrimination against employees with mental health challenges; encourage empathy and helpfulness from colleagues.
  • Policies should be emplaced to discourage any form of bullying in the workplace.
  • The mode of communication should be one of respect along all hierarchies, with everyone having a voice.
  • Virtues such as; patience, kindness and concern for one another, should be consciously practiced.
  • Heavy politicking for career progression should be avoided; the career management system and reward/recognition system, should be deemed fair.
  • Build an ethical culture, which will not be sacrificed at the altar of growth in market share and profitability.
  • Remuneration should be considered commensurate to the work done.
  • Leave days and health insurance should conform to global best practice.

4. Create a Safe and Welcoming Work Environment

  • Offices should be well lit, with functional air-conditioning.
  • Use white and appropriate colours to create a warm and welcoming effect.
  • Noise pollution should be eliminated; generators ought to be sound-proof.
  • Work stations should be safe to use; avoid tight arrangement of furniture, allow for spaciousness.
  • Meals should be served in a dining room/cafeteria, rather than staff eating at their work stations.

5. Implement Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), as defined by Encyclopedia- Business terms | Inc.com, are plans that help identify and resolve issues facing troubled employees through short-term counselling, referrals to specialized professionals or organizations, and follow-up services.

EAPs typically address challenges that employees experience at work and on the home front. Employers pay for this service, and employees and their families have access to EAP professionals, on a confidential basis. EAPs can be dsigned to address the following:

  • Mental health issues
  • Interpersonal conflicts at work
  • Health issues and caregiving for elderly relations
  • Marriage and family issues
  • Financial and legal issues
  • Substance abuse issues

With the help of EAPs, employees who experience a decline in productivity, as a result of challenges at work or at home, are able to get the needed support, to get back on track.

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