This year’s mental health awareness theme is Look Around, Look Within, focusing on how surroundings impact mental health. The four themes specifically addressed by Mental Health America are safe and stable housing, healthy home environments, neighborhoods and towns, the outdoors and nature.
The environment in which we are born, live, work, play, and socialize has a significant impact on our mental health. As a result, organizations have the unique potential to improve the mental health of their employees by improving their work and community environments.
Here are practical tips on how your organization can embrace the theme, Look Around, Look Within, be an advocate for mental health, improve the lives of your employees, and increase employee engagement and performance.
1. Safe & Stable Housing is a key piece of mental health. The housing crisis is real, as lack of affordable housing and spiking rents are affecting multiple generations of workers. Most businesses aren’t tech giants that can afford to build entire cities and rent houses cheaper to employees. Your organization, though, can implement strategies to recruit and retain great workers by giving them a chance to find an affordable, safe place to live.
a. Rental deposit loan scheme: Some organizations, like Starbucks UK, provide their employees with a loan for the rental deposit interest-free. It’s expensive to rent a home with rental deposits, cleaning deposits etc. Many people have the money for the rent, but not the up-front costs.
b. Provide financial counseling for employees. With workshops, lunch-and-learn options, MOOCs, and seminars, you can help your employees improve their financial literacy and health. This can help them get on track to investing in a home, saving money, and improving their wellbeing.
c. Partner with housing organizations to provide affordable housing solutions to employees. This can include offering subsidized housing or rent assistance programs.
d. Flexible work arrangements might be the most powerful tool organizations have to adapt to employees’ housing needs and, in turn, increase employee engagement. Organizations can offer flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting or flexible schedules, to help employees live in areas with more affordable housing options.
2. Healthy home environments (and work environments) are key pieces of mental health. Help employees improve their work environment with simple practices.
a. Ensure employees keep their workspace organized. A New York Times article explored the “unbearable heaviness of clutter” and how clutter can induce a stress-causing hormone, increasing levels of anxiety. Give employees tips and strategies to maintain a clutter-free workspace and improve wellness
b. Recognize the signs of a toxic work culture. Take time to identify causes of toxicity. Start with an employee survey and take action on results. Toxic work environments lead to burnout.
c. Relationships matter. Community matters. Create a workplace of belongingness.
These are just two of the four themes Mental Health America is highlighting this year. Before implementing any change, it's important to ask your employees what they need. Conduct an engagement survey so you can create meaningful action plans to address your employees' needs.
There's a lot of work to do, and in the next blog post, we’ll be discussing the ways your organization can take actions to improve the mental health of employees through community activities and getting outside.
“Mental health is just as important as… physical health and deserves the same quality of support.” – Kate Middleton