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How to Build a Supportive Culture for Mental Health

As current challenges present new obstacles for enterprises everywhere, protecting and supporting the health of your employees is increasingly crucial. This requires more than just basic health care. After all, 21% of U.S. adults experience at least some kind of mental health issue according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses may be deeply personal, but the effect they have on your workforce can easily snowball into underperformance and even turnover. And while it may be easy to grasp why healthy employees are key to your success, your strategy for addressing this complex issue could be harder to harness.

A recent webinar hosted by Tanner Bergman, Paycom’s workplace well-being adviser, sheds light on why understanding and addressing this topic is critical, as well as the options you have to improve the lives of your workforce.

Why employees’ mental health matters

One of the biggest obstacles to wellness lies in awareness. NAMI found over half of U.S. adults experiencing mental illness do not receive treatment. This is propelled by a number of possible factors, but when employers don’t make mental health resources readily available, it’s difficult to bring it up.

And when mental illness goes unaddressed, it has the potential to stifle operations and hinder individual performance and development. According to Harvard Business Review, this issue often begets:

  • absenteeism, or employees routinely missing work
  • presenteeism, or underproductive, albeit present employees
  • burnout, or depression spurred by a worker’s specific role or position
  • physical health problems
  • attrition

Attrition is particularly impactful among newer generations of talent. According to a study from Mind Share Partners, a nonprofit focused on workplace mental health, the number of employees resigning is rising. In 2021 alone, 68% of millennials, 81% of Gen Z members and 50% of employees overall left their jobs for mental health reasons, a leap from 2019’s figures of 50%, 75% and 34% respectively.

Your workforce is your business’s most valuable, renewable resource, even more so in 2022 due to the historically tight labor market. Given the cost of replacing employees — up to 2 ½ times their salary, per a Gallup workplace survey — prioritizing mental health could be the effort you need to reinforce your bottom line.

Creating a wellness culture

Addressing mental illness’s effect on your business is never an instant fix, but gradually introducing programs and unconventional benefits that empower your employees gives you the foundation you need to build a supportive culture.

And according to Mind Share Partners, this is an overwhelming need for most employees, given 91% of them believed companies should actively address this concern. Finding the best approach that works for your workforce may vary, but popular options include:

  • employee assistance programs, both on and off-site
  • well-being advisers to serve employees in the workplace
  • self-help apps to promote positive exercises like meditation, exercise, financial planning and healthy eating

However, one of the most important initiatives involves a resource you already have: your managers. But a study from Capita, an employee benefits provider, revealed that 49% of employees don’t believe their supervisors would know how to speak with them about their mental health issue.

Training and encouraging your leadership to be authentic, mindful and supportive about this topic helps deliver the sense of trust and confidence employees need to talk about mental health before it translates into turnover. And allowing your managers to train on their time — like through a comprehensive learning management system — helps them grasp this complex subject in a way that’s intuitive and accommodating.

The role of HR

While an employee struggling with mental health may reach out to their leadership first, ultimately maintaining and evolving your culture of support is in the hands of HR. After all, your HR professionals are likely involved with any push that enhances your workforce’s wellness, and this may be among the most crucial of all.

When you’re building, experimenting and implementing your mental health strategy, consider:

  • evaluating your benefits package to determine if there might be a better opportunity to support and treat mental illness
  • communicating regularly about the mental health resources you offer, which will help normalize the subject in your organization
  • maintaining confidentiality to create a more judgement-free and unbiased culture
  • analyzing and assembling the turnover data about your workforce, especially as it relates to absenteeism and burnout, to build a strong business case for your C-suite

Remember, there’s a strong chance you’ll uncover even more options that truly speak to your employees as you work through these tips. But even small, incremental moves toward addressing mental health in your business help you take a step in a positive direction.

Check out our on-demand webinar for a detailed breakdown of how mental illness impacts organizations and what you may do to prevent it. And learn how Paycom’s single software has the tools you need to help create and maintain your business’s supportive culture.


DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.