Here’s How To Create A Mental Health-Friendly Work Environment

It’s May, and it’s Mental Health Awareness Month again.

Companies of all sizes, human resources professionals, executives, and hiring professionals are committed to becoming more conscious of mental health issues in the workplace.

The whole team at Patel wanted to give a shout-out to mental health professionals and to our clients who have made great strides in addressing this growing workplace issue.

Patel Consultants can help you with all of your recruiting and staffing needs, from direct-hire to contract workers, temp-to-hire, and everything in between. Call us today at 908-964-7575.

But today we just wanted to share some thoughts on mental health in the workplace from the experts at the Society for Human Resource Management. 

Here’s what they had to say in a poignant article offering a few suggestions for companies to promote mental health and awareness in the workplace:

1. Awareness

One in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences a mental health condition each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“Work is a critical component of recovery for someone who is experiencing a mental illness or a mental health crisis,” said Jennifer Sheehy, deputy assistant secretary for the DOL’s (Department of Labor) Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Manager education is a good way to support mental health wellness in the workplace, according to EARN (Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion). Managers can be trained to recognize the signs of mental health issues and to create a supportive and inclusive environment.

2. Accommodation

Reasonable accommodations can help workers with disabilities—including those with mental health conditions—perform their jobs more efficiently. Anne Hirsh, co-director of the Job Accommodation Network, said the types of accommodations that may help workers “really run the gamut” include flexible scheduling, softer or brighter lighting and relocation of the employee’s workstation. Additionally, an employee may need time off to adjust to medication.

“Managers and supervisors need to feel supported when they are working through an accommodation with an employee,” she said.

Sheehy noted that finding the right accommodation might take some trial and error.

3. Assistance

Certified peer-support specialists can help workers rebuild trust and access the services they need, said Patrick Hendry, Vice President of Peer Advocacy, Supports and Services for Mental Health America. Specialists may have diagnosed mental health conditions themselves and are trained to help others succeed. “Peer support is one of the fastest-growing labor forces in the country,” Hendry said. He said helping employees get back to work is particularly important because work is “part of our identity.”

4. Access

Employers can help workers access the tools they need to manage mental health conditions through an employee assistance program (EAP). The role of an EAP is to give both the employer and the employee options when a situation arises, said Greg DeLapp, chief executive officer of the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association. He encouraged employers to do more than just point to a policy or program. He suggested that managers have an open discussion with employees and ask them about what they need to succeed in the workplace.

5. Acceptance

Andy Imparato, executive director for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, said he would add this fifth “A,” acceptance, to EARN’s list. He spoke of his own experience with bipolar disorder. Employees who are dealing with long-term mental health conditions should “accept that it’s real; accept that this is something we now have to incorporate into our [experiences] and figure out how to manage,” he said. “Also, the people around us have to accept that.”

Employers must accept that some of their high-performers have experience with mental illness, Imparato added, and he encouraged people to be open about their own experiences to help remove the stigma and show what’s possible. 

We’ve all struggled through some difficult emotional and psychological experiences in our lives, and most of us probably know someone who has struggled with serious mental illness.

While most of us aren’t clinical mental health experts, we can all be conscious of our coworkers’ potential struggles, and at least be aware and supportive.

HR professionals can take further action and ensure that employees are aware of healthcare benefits that support mental illness issues. You can also consult with your health insurance partner to see if mental health benefits can be increased or optimized in any way to support your valued employees.

It’s mental Health Awareness Month again, and together we can make a difference.

Are you a hiring manager or human resources professional with a job search, or searches, underway? Are you looking for workforce management solutions? 

Maybe you just have some questions about how we can help you with your staffing needs?

At Patel Consultants, we help clients just like you find that perfect candidate every day!

Call us today at 908-964-7575, or get in touch online. Our expert recruiters are waiting for your call.