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How to Conduct Effective Mental Health Check-ins with Employees

Shivangi Gautam

Last Updated: 2 February 2023

In this article:

It feels like a really long time ago when the pandemic started and we were greeted by a prolonged period of work-from-home, a fancy desk setup at home, new plants we hoarded, old clothes that we were reacquainted with. Cut to a couple of years and many health scares later, here we have a workforce of which 42% have confirmed that their mental health has declined since the outbreak began. Shocking how the world turned out, huh?

Every year, people around the world work together to raise awareness around mental health issues on October 10, which is known as World Mental Health Day. While we were already engaging in conversations about mental health concerns derailing our productivity, the pandemic has pushed our struggle several steps back. Good mental health and good management go hand in hand. So, as you dealt with new health policies, hiring, and attrition, the most important role you played was that of supporting employee mental well being.

Here’s to celebrating that significant part you played, and a guide on how you can create a workplace that supports mental health, one employee at a time.

What are the worrying signs?

As we navigate the coming few transitioning months, leaders may see their employees struggle with anxiety, PTSD, and of course, burnouts. But the first step to fixing a problem is to identify the source of it. Consider a simple fact from this study that over two-thirds of people don’t know that a change in line manager or getting a new job could trigger a mental health issue. How to know if your employee is struggling with a mental illness?

Here are few signs and symptoms to watch out for:

  1. Outbursts and mood swings
  2. Absenteeism 
  3. Nervous, restless and irritability 
  4. Change in work habits

While tackling mental health concerns can be challenging, here are some ways employers can offer support to their people and create a happier place to work.

1. Invest in training your managers

Employers must train line managers to spot signs of declining mental health in their team members. It isn’t surprising that in a Mental Health at Work Report, issued in partnership with SAP and Qualtrics, the most commonly desired workplace mental health resources were a more open and accepting culture, clearer information about where to go or whom to ask for support, and training. 

While true mental health diagnosis begins with a licensed professional, colleagues, friends and managers can step in and move the needle on detigmatizing it in work spaces. Basic training in mental health awareness doesn’t involve a graduate degree, nor can it to turn managers into therapists.

It is just navigating human relations: How to be kind, how to listen, how to be vulnerable, and how to create an environment of emotional safety. There are various free and online courses available that employers can choose from. It’s time to take that first step.

2. Encourage work life balance

With the millennial generation of workers projected to take up 75% of the workforce by 2025, prioritizing work-life balance isn’t an optional healthy behaviour, it is the need of the hour. In an era where the lines between work and life are consistently blurring, compartmentalizing work and life as two separate aspects can help reduce stress and prevent burnouts.

As a result, you create a workspace where employers don’t have want to come to work, but want to. When you give an opportunity to your employees to work flexible hours, they can avail time to make that medical appointment, meet their friends and family, walk their dog, or even cultivate a hobby. The way we see it, it’s a win-win for everybody!

3. Make it official with policies

Does your workplace treat mental illness the same way it would treat physical illnesses? As leaders, do you identify issues proactively and resolve them? Do you support employees who face mental health problems? It’s the last quarter of 2022, and if you do not have a policies exclusive to mental health, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. If you already have policies in place, now would be a great time to review and amend them for better supporting your employees.

A financial bank in Canada, gives employees a health wise health passport, giving them access to a holistic package of maintaining physical and mental well-being. Need more inspiration? At inFeedo, employers have access to work perks like full mental health cover, unlimited paid time off and to top it off, the entire team works remote and will continue to do so in future. 

While we built Amber - an AI-integrated HR platform - that talks to employees to spot signs of disengagement and burnouts, it was only fair that we lead by example. 

4. Encourage engagement 

Creating a work culture which makes it safe and acceptable for people to share mental health struggles is the most important thing you can do to support your people. Leaders must be constantly plugged into the needs of their people and also take effective actions.

Engagement surveys do a good job at asking questions, but their scope is limited to just that. There are high chances that your employees are feeling the survey fatigue or are convinced that their feedback may not result in any action from the management. Companies like ITC, Marico and Tata use Amber to engage with their employees and understand them better. Amber is backed by years of people science studies so it can ask relevant question and respond with empathy. Amber also provides an anonymous space for people to share feedback.

Make 2023 the year of mental wellness

Companies stand to gain so much and lose nothing by addressing mental health correctly. As a people leader, you have the power to change your organization’s attitude and build a system around mental health for the better. There’s always at least one employee who’s dealing with a lot but does not have a safe space at work to convey that. Remember, if you would offer a hand to an employee who walked into work with a cast on her leg, you’d do the same for one who’s struggling with her mental well-being. 

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