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business-peopleMany businesses today are concerned about having a healthy workforce. Keeping workers healthy, through exercise and wellness incentive programs and other initiatives, keeps health care costs down and productivity up.

Most workplace wellness programs focus on physical health. And while keeping employees healthy physically is certainly important, it’s equally as important to include mental health in the overall equation. When your workforce is mentally healthy, not only do they tend to be physically healthier, but their productivity and commitment to their jobs also increase.

But how do you create a mentally healthy workplace? How do you ensure employees have access to the resources and services they need to stay emotionally well — and that the office environment is one that encourages mental well-being? Here are five ways you can set your business on the path to mental health.

Hold Frequent Employee Education Sessions

As with any health issue, education and awareness of mental health problems is the first step toward solving them. The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health recommends that human resources departments implement employee awareness programs regarding common mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse, arguing people who understand and recognize the symptoms of mental health problems and the effectiveness of treatment are more likely to seek help. Educating managers on how to identify problems and guide employees toward help has also been proven to improve overall workplace mental health.

Encourage Employees to Discuss Issues

Sometimes, employees simply need an outlet for discussing issues to maintain their mental health. Human resources is often a good place to start, but Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have been proven to improve employees’ mental health and have a direct correlation to improved performance. EAPs are usually run by mental health professionals and help employees develop strategies to cope with issues both on and off the job, and make referrals to additional services when necessary. If an EAP is not possible, build an office culture that encourages an open dialogue regarding issues and an environment of respect, civility and honest communication.

Offer Health Insurance That Covers Mental Health Care

Because mental health is inextricably linked to physical health, it’s in your company’s best interest to offer health insurance coverage that provides some mental health services. While including this coverage can increase some employer costs, those costs are far less than those associated with untreated or inadequately treated mental illness. At minimum, ensure your health plan offers access to mental health services and several treatment options.

Stay Organized

One of the best ways to maintain a mentally healthy workplace is to avoid creating situations that lead to stress, anxiety, depression and other issues. Work stress is one of the most common causes for depression — and related substance abuse — so taking steps to limit or alleviate that stress can contribute to a happy and healthy workforce. Commit to organizational processes that keep everyone on task and on target, and make every attempt to stay focused and avoid deadline stress. Occasional stress is to be expected, but a constantly chaotic environment is harmful. Encourage a healthy work-life balance, and implement policies and programs to ensure employees have well-balanced lives.

Encourage a Healthy Work Environment

While the organization of the work environment and the day-to-day operations of a company or department can cause an unhealthy workplace, organizational culture is just as important. How do people relate to each other and their work? If there is distrust and a lack of civility, fairness, respect and communication, it only follows that employees will be unhappy and stressed out. No one wants to spend the day facing constant criticism or uncertainty about the motives of others. Creating a culture that is fair and transparent, and that encourages healthy communication, respect and recognition of achievements, will go a long way toward maintaining an emotionally well workforce — and a high-functioning, productive business.

Every workplace is different, and there is no single way to create a healthy environment. But taking these steps toward a healthy work environment creates a solid foundation and ensures that your employees will be happy, healthy and productive regardless of the outside factors affecting their work.

About the Author: Kristine Hayworth is a mental health provider who works with businesses to develop effective employee mental wellness programs. If you would like to explore more about the study of psychology, click here for forensic psychology degree information.

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