Mental Health in the Workplace: A 365-Day Focus

Mental Health Month was established in May 1949 to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. Over the past 70 years, approaches to mental health have transformed. The use of talking therapies has grown, causes for illness have been defined, research budgets have increased, policies have updated, treatment and care have been moved into communities and society has become more aware, accepting, understanding and supportive of mental health issues.  While resources are promoted, communication is encouraged and support is in place each May; mental health should be a focus for companies 365-days-a-year. 

It’s no secret that the last year has been challenging for everyone in a myriad of ways. Job loss, change in the work environment, salary cuts, global health issues, losing loved ones, lockdowns and travel restrictions all had a severe impact on the mental health of many. 

We are quick to seek medical attention after a nasty fall but are more hesitant to seek support to process and heal stress, anxiety, trauma, and other mental health-related issues.

A recent report by Ginger, an on-demand behavioral health support platform, was published on the 2021 Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health. Findings from the survey revealed that:

  • 48% of employees report experiencing high to extreme stress over the past year—a 7% increase over the last two years
  • 96% of CEOs believe they are doing enough for employee mental health, but only 69% of employees feel the same

While some organizations increased mental health benefits and encouraged dialogue on mental health issues, here are 5 industry leaders who have been making positive changes to making mental health a priority:

1. Innocent Drinks

weekly confidential meetings to employees

Innocent drinks, which offer an employee yoga club, sabbaticals and a free on-site gym, have long advocated for workplace wellbeing. The smoothie company offers weekly confidential meetings to employees with ‘The People Clinic’ to discuss if they are struggling with work, mental health, or anything in their personal life. There’s also weekly 1:1 with managers where employees are encouraged to discuss work-related struggles or projects. It’s no wonder that Innocent Drinks was crowned Employer of the Year 2021 at the National Business Awards in the UK. 

2. Virgin

The global company introduced a development program, MindCoach, to help colleagues understand themselves and others to bring their ‘best selves’ to work every day. MindCoach uses the science behind positive psychology to explore how to maintain a healthy mindset, become more resilient, recognize and alleviate stress and enhance mental wellbeing. Discussing mental health issues in the workplace, Virgin CEO Richard Branson said, “No business has any more excuses not to take action.”

3. Microsoft

24/7 telephone consultations and live webchat

Microsoft’s employee assistance program, Microsoft CARES, offers confidential consultations and referral information to support a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle. Services and support include:

  • stress management resources and programs
  • emotional and behavioral support for individuals and families
  • grief counseling, support groups, and referral resources
  • 24/7 telephone consultations and live webchat
  • in-person counseling

4. Johnson & Johnson

In addition to supporting their employees, J&J offers employees’ families the same resources and programs to ensure positive well-being beyond the workplace. They provide stress management, physical fitness, wellness, and financial budgeting resources. J&J also offers a free app, meQuilibrium, that gives customized, actionable how-to tips where users can learn how to adopt behaviors that can help keep them healthy and energized.

5. Google

wellness program to achieve work-life balance

In addition to an incredible wellness program featuring onsite healthcare services and fitness centers, the search engine powerhouse offers flexible hours, vacation time, and volunteer time to help their staff achieve work-life balance. To deal with the ongoing pandemic, Lauren Whitt, Google’s Wellness Manager, says they are using “resilience training” and expertise from professional athletes and psychologists to help with mental health.

Telemedicine Delivering Mental Health Support

Telemedicine services rising in popularity to cater to companies looking to boost their employee wellbeing include counseling, psychiatry and mental health support. During the pandemic, these virtual services have been beneficial for continuous mental health care. In the US, there has been a 33% increase in Americans attending telemedicine appointments from 14% (pre-COVID) to 57%. 

Telehealth services ultimately lead to healthier employees as they won’t be skipping appointments to meet a deadline and will take fewer sick days for in-person appointments. This convenient and flexible real-time care allows employees better access to the support and care they need, when they need it. 

Let’s destigmatize mental health issues and encourage better workplace practices to prevent professional burnout while promoting a positive work environment where staff can thrive—it’s a win-win for everyone.