Providing a mental health program doesn't guarantee employees will take the necessary steps to take care of themselves.
Only 6.6% of Americans 25 and older spend time on self-care every day. No wonder employees are burning out!
Here are three ways you can start encouraging employees to take care of themselves today, even when they are at work.
1. Talking about it
HR leaders like you can set the example.
First, start by sharing some of your personal experiences with mental health. Here are some approachable mental health topics to get you started:
- How you manage stress
- How you take care of yourself
- How workday breaks help you, and what you like to do during your workday breaks
- How you maintain work-life balance
- How your therapist has helped you with something lately
- How meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy eating, volunteering, etc. have helped you
The more you talk about your personal experiences in this area, the more comfortable employees will feel about bringing up their struggles.
Simply knowing that your company leaders prioritize mental health can be enough. Many people won't need or want to talk about their mental health at work, but the fact that their workplace is supportive of their wellbeing can still make a profound impact on them.
Here are some conversation starters to get you talking about mental health in the workplace with one of your direct reports or coworkers:
- I am here to talk whenever you are ready.
- What can I do to help/support you today?
- How are you coping?
- I wanted to check in with you. I noticed you've been distant/down/sad.
- What is concerning you today?
- Has work been stressful for you lately?
- What do you do to take care of yourself?
HR leaders at our Brain Trust have mentioned that they ask employees when they plan to take their next day off. This is another excellent way to start creating a culture that puts self-care and wellbeing first.
If an employee hasn't taken a lot of time off, encourage them to take time for themselves. And of course—set the example yourself by taking time off! Related: Stress Management in HR: Tips for HR Leaders
2. Group self-care activities
We've written about this one a lot because it works.
It's not uncommon for employees to have very little time for self-care in their personal or work lives. Baking it into a workday can be a tremendous perk and a time of much-needed relief.
Not to mention the benefits of building team connections, increasing engagement, and boosting morale.
Here are some effective group self-care activities we've heard HR leaders rave about:
- Group meditations
- Playing calming music in the office
- Having company-wide random days off or mental health days
- Group exercise
- Walks during lunch hour
Self-care looks different for everyone. Meditation may work for one employee but not another. It is important to provide multiple avenues for self-care at work.
The idea is to create spaces for (and give permission to) people to take care of themselves at work.
3. Building trust as managers
One key to creating a safe, wellbeing-conscious workplace is building trust.
You can have self-care activities and talk about mental health at work, but employees won't feel supported if trust isn't given.
For instance, when an employee says they need a day off, don't question it. Constantly monitoring employees to see if they are "online" is a recipe for presenteeism and a lack of trust.
Here are some phrases to avoid when talking to employees that erode trust and sense of safety at work:
- Why don't you just snap out of it?
- Just stop thinking those thoughts and move on.
- Lots of people have it worse than you.
- It's all in your head.
- Look at the bright side.
- Why are you being so negative?
- I think you are being too sensitive.
- Why do you let yourself feel this way?
For more on this topic, check out this HR Brain Trust video with HR leaders around the country.
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