Offer Mental Health Resources to Improve Work-Life Balance

28 November 2018

Who doesn't struggle with work-life balance? It's all too easy to take work home and, likewise, to bring concerns from home to work. If you do too much of the former, you risk being labeled a workaholic. Do too much of the latter and you risk being labeled a slacker. Finding a balance can be tricky — and if employees are living with mental illness, even the normal stress that comes with work can further complicate matters.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that, in a given year, approximately 43.8 million adults experience mental illness, and approximately 9.8 million experience a serious mental illness that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. You may not know just how many of your employees are silently living with mental illness. Managers and employers need to be vocal about these issues and the resources available so that employees facing these struggles know that they're not alone.

Whether those who work for you face mental illness or not, finding a healthy work-life balance is essential. Here are tips for how to encourage and help employees to maintain their work-life balance.

Look Into Company Policy Around Mental Health

Studies show that work-life balance is good not only for employees but for employers as well; according to an article in Forbes magazine, providing mental health resources for employees can pay off in many ways, such as reducing absenteeism and improving productivity and morale.

Additionally, keep in mind that an employee with a psychiatric disability, such as an anxiety disorder, depression or bipolar disorder, has rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of these rights is access to job accommodation unless it causes the employer undue hardship. This law is further incentive for companies to help employees with mental health issues balance their workload with their mental health.

Ask your company's human resources department what mental health resources and policies your employer offers and be sure to highlight and implement them at work.

Take a Mind Break

Mindfulness meditation can be a simple but powerful tool for employees to lower stress and boost productivity. The internet boasts many guided mindfulness meditations that employees could follow at the office with a pair of headphones. They can also do a simple mindfulness meditation by following these steps:

  • Set a timer for five minutes.
  • Silence your phone and computer notifications.
  • Close your eyes or find a pleasant image to look at.
  • Pay attention to your breath coming in and going out during this time.
  • Every time a thought comes into your mind, notice it and let it go.

If meditation isn't their cup of tea, you may want to recommend taking breaks, including a short walk — or even a quick nap! The American Psychology Association says that a short nap during the day can be extremely beneficial to mood and productivity, and taking a walk can also help in brightening one's outlook, according to a study published in the journal Emotion.

Encourage Time for a Personal Day

If taking daily breathers at the office isn't enough, tactfully acknowledge an obviously stressed worker by complimenting their dedication to the work and, if the company allows it, encourage they take a day off to decompress.
According to MarketWatch, a Broadway star called in sick prior to a performance of "Frozen" due to an anxiety attack. "Even Disney princesses are terrified sometimes," she wrote in an Instagram post. Disney was supportive, and other companies have come around to accepting that a mental health day can be considered one and the same as a sick day.

According to Forbes, many companies are addressing mental health in the workplace more seriously. Between allowing the use of sick days for mental health needs and making in-office counselors available so employees have a convenient way to speak with someone, strides are being made. Managers can also set the example by taking a mental health day as needed for themselves and letting staff know about it.

Make Them Aware of Negativity in the Workplace

You can't control the way other people behave, but you can show your employees how to change the way they view negative behavior. For example, when dealing with an extremely critical coworker, it may help to evaluate this co-worker's normal disposition and understand that their behavior is not necessarily personal. Tell your staff to brainstorm ways in which to distance or distract themselves or simply let go of negative comments rather than stew and chew on them.

In addition, be proactive about settling problems before they become larger. An employee creating a hostile work environment for others can be detrimental to the mental health and work experience of others. Keep an open dialogue and advocate for a positive work environment so that your employees feel comfortable coming to you before matters escalate.

Be an Ally for Mental Health

The stigma surrounding mental health issues is slowly dissipating as mental illness is more widely recognized as a brain disorder and not a character flaw. Increasing awareness about mental health issues can be as simple as speaking honestly about your experiences, putting up posters in a break room challenging myths commonly associated with mental health disorders, hosting lunch-and-learn workshops on emotional well-being, and training supervisors to better understand mental health issues at the office.

Working to protect the work-life balance and mental health of your employees will do more than help them stay healthy. When you see increases in workplace morale, reduced absenteeism and the sharp-shooting productivity of your mentally well-rested employees, you'll feel the benefits, too.