A SAFE SPACE: EMPATHY AND EDUCATION HELP FOSTER OPEN DIALOGUE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
By Laura Marzi, Chief Marketing Officer, Group Benefits, The Hartford
Such a simple request can speak volumes when creating a culture of compassion. Throughout the pandemic, many employers have been leading with empathy and understanding – recognizing the upheaval in their employees’ lives both at work and at home.
As a result, employers have a heightened interest in offering more mental health services and support in the workplace. But how comfortable do employees feel about having that conversation?
It depends on who you ask.
A recent study from The Hartford found that 68% of employers believe they foster an open and inclusive work environment that encourages a dialogue about mental health. However, only 42% of employees said they felt their workplace encouraged that open dialogue. There are a number of ways employers can help bridge that disconnect.
Company communications, such as employee newsletters, intranet sites and emails can be effective in raising awareness about wellness benefits, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Employers cans also share information and outreach provided through community services and helplines, including resources from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
The Hartford’s study found that as a result of the pandemic, more employers said they are likely to offer additional benefits such as EAPs, wellness benefits and other behavioral/mental health services in the future.
It is also important to support front-line managers with training and education to help them spot signs of mental health issues and be able to communicate with compassion. Mangers are an essential part of the communication chain to guide employees to appropriate support and information.
Employers also have been more flexible in accommodating employee needs. This, too, adds to the culture of compassion. Accommodations can be simple, such as allowing remote work, flexible work schedules, structured breaks to avoid burnout and added safety measures in work areas. These modifications can help ease stress, assure safety and underscore an employer’s care and concern.
The Hartford is partnering with NAMI to help employers and employees understand how to reduce stigma in the workplace and encourage those with mental health conditions to seek support, including holding a recent webinar with leaders from both organizations.
The pandemic has upended normalcy for almost a year now and the arrival of a vaccine is helping to bring hope and optimism. But returning to normal won’t happen overnight. Keeping an ongoing dialogue with employees through regular check-ins and raising awareness of all resources can help employers create an environment for compassionate conversations.
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