It’s estimated that 12 billion working days are missed each year due to depression and anxiety, costing $1 trillion in lost productivity annually. Needless to say, it’s pretty important that companies do what they can to address workplace mental health and support employees who may be struggling.
I knew depression and anxiety were bad, but I didn’t realize they cost the economy that much. It’s no surprise though, when you consider that almost half of employees feel their mental wellbeing declined in 2022, and 28% feel miserable in the workplace.
60% feel emotionally detached at work, too. And emotional detachment from things we previously enjoyed is a major symptom of depression.
So what can you do to support better workplace mental health?
Remove (or mitigate) distractions
Offices can be noisy, distracting places. Even the virtual office can bombard us with notification after notification. It’s easy for anyone to get distracted, let alone someone who’s already struggling to concentrate.
What distractions can you remove to better support workplace mental health? It may be worth asking your employee what distracts them the most, as the answer will be different for everyone.
Some examples include:
- Bright lights
- Loud noises
- Lots of people coming and going
- Slack notifications
- Email notifications
- Traffic outside the window
The solution might be to allow them to work from home, move the location of their desk, or have specific focus hours where others can’t distract them.
Utilize noise-canceling headphones
Noise-canceling headphones are magical, especially in noisy offices.
I couldn’t have survived working in an open-plan office without them because the constant shouting (yes, really) coming from other people’s desks made it almost impossible for me to concentrate.
Try fidget toys
I bought a fidget toy last year, and I regularly use it when I need to concentrate on editing something. I find it grounding, using it to keep my hands busy while my mind focuses.
It makes it easier for me to hone in on one task. So many of my friends were skeptical when I first got it, but they’ve tried it and since bought their own.
There’s a fidget toy out there for everyone, whether it’s a fidget spinner, stress ball, or something else. You could even order some with your company’s branding to distribute to employees in support of workplace mental health.
Buy supportive tech
My reMarkable 2 is my best friend. I use it every day to write what I have to do and what I have to remember. And I get a hit of dopamine every time I check something off my to-do list. If it isn’t on my reMarkable, it doesn’t get done.
What technology could you adopt to help your employees keep track of tasks? Is there an app, like ClickUp or Todoist? Or a piece of hardware like a tablet?
Something as simple as having an easy way to organize to-dos and visualize progress can boost workplace mental health.
Get a whiteboard
Tech is great, but sometimes it can also be handy to have something glaring and in your face so that you really can’t forget what’s most important.
An office whiteboard is a simple way for employees to see what’s been done and what still needs to be done.
Or even to jot quick notes to each other or play a game during some downtime. (Tic Tac Toe can be great when you need to rest your brain, whatever your age.)
Try sit/stand desks or anti-fatigue mats
Movement can really help our ability to concentrate. It’s also much better for our posture than sitting at a desk all day, and helpful for someone who’s feeling fidgety or restless.
So incorporating more movement opportunities into employees’ days can be great for workplace mental health.
Giving people the option of a sit/stand desk enables them to work comfortably based on how they feel physically and mentally. It’s great for their short and long-term health.
Anti-fatigue mats, meanwhile, can help employees who stand at their desks. The mats improve blood flow and are much more comfortable on employees’ feet than a hard office floor.
Embrace natural lighting
The best type of lighting for our minds—and eyes—is natural light. It’s very different from harsh, bright, overstimulating light that can add to someone’s stress levels if they already feel down, anxious, or ill.
Could you dim the lights in the employee’s space? If there’s no option to dim them, could you disconnect one or two to make it less harsh?
Also consider ways to take the glare off people’s screens from windows, such as screen protectors or moving their desk space. These are simple, no or low-cost adjustments that can make a big difference for workplace mental health.
Allow a support animal into the office
Hugging or petting an animal can calm our nervous systems, making it a quick and simple way to reset when we feel stressed. As a result, we can get more work done because we spend less time feeling anxious or worried.
Allowing pets in the office is also a good way to increase your talent pool. Some pet owners are unable to afford pet care, so enabling them to bring their pet with them can really help to improve workplace mental health.
Create private spaces
Sometimes, we just need to be alone. And once we’re alone, we can get so much more done.
But to get to that point, we need a quiet space to recharge and disconnect from the outside world. Something which is increasingly hard to come by these days.
Is there a quiet room you could allocate for employees to do some deep work? Or even allow them to nap or meditate when they need some alone time?
Could you use a room-booking software for it, to ensure that nobody disturbs them?
Make the work environment calmer
We live in a world that’s switched on 24/7. And that’s terrible for workplace mental health. Is there a way you can create a calmer environment?
Not to the point where employees feel like they’re going to fall asleep at their desks, but where their senses aren’t being bombarded all the time.
For example, lots of posters or things to look at in the office can be overwhelming. Ditto to lots of smells or sounds. A calm color, and a landscape painting or two, is much more soothing.
Supporting workplace mental health is about a combination of physical workspace transformations and actions that allow employees to work in a way that’s best for them. Every person’s needs will be different, which is why it’s important to listen and adapt things as needed.
If you’d like to offer more workplace mental health support, why not help employees connect with others through a mental health-focused ERG? While you’re at it, why not make it easier for the whole team to access programs, groups, and events related to their mental wellbeing?
Workrowd puts everything employees need right at their fingertips. Combine that with our easy, automated feedback opportunities, and you’ve got a flexible, turnkey way to improve workplace mental health.