Mental Health Benefits and Strategies Can Increase Employee Engagement

World Mental Health Awareness Month and Look Around, Look Within

Last blog we discussed two of the four central themes of this year’s World Mental Health Awareness Month – Look Around, Look Within. This week, we want to continue discussing ways your organization can implement meaningful strategies to improve mental health. and, in doing so, increase employee engagement and performance.

1. Neighborhoods and towns -- community -- are built by people,. Your organization can be a big part of creating a safer, better neighborhood for everyone.
a. Have a meaningful CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program that has a local impact. Employees feel good when they do good, and by giving your employees “hours” to do volunteer work for your organization’s CSR program, you’re improving your community.
b. Support local businesses when outsourcing services or buying products. These local businesses are your neighbors. This creates meaningful community outreach.
c. Keep people safe. Some organizations might not be in neighborhoods where everyone feels safe, so create a system where nobody walks alone to catch the bus or implement a buddy system to walk to the parking garage.
d. Make your workplace beautiful. It’s not uncommon to hear about the broken window theory; that said, adopt the busy streets theory by making sure you beautify your neighborhood. Make sure your building has good lighting, clean windows, an up-to-date paint job, and a great appearance. Plant flowers. Put out a bench for workers, and neighbors, to use. Talk to local businesses nearby and set up a cleanup date – perhaps assigning different community cleanup days. As a neighborhood, adopt vacant and abandoned lots (connecting with owners when possible) and create community gardens and picnic areas. Busy streets make for safer streets.

2. Outdoors and nature are linked to increased focus, lower stress, better moods, and a lower chance of developing a mental illness. Improve the lives of your employees and their families.
a. Create outdoor workspaces like a rooftop garden or courtyard where employees can get work done and get much-needed Vitamin D.
b. Start a hiking, walking, geocache, or snowshoeing club. Provide employees and their families with the chance to go outdoors. Partner with a local sporting goods store to get discounts on kayak, snowshoe, ski, or other equipment rentals. Create opportunities for employees and their families to connect outside of work.
c. Take a walk at lunch. Encourage employees to take lunch walks and picnics. Likewise for coffee breaks.
d. Green perks. Encourage employees to explore the natural parks in the area. Subsidize shuttle services and buses. Provide employees with park passes. Get employees to explore the area with green perks.
e. Plant trees. Maybe, as part of your CSR program, you can have tree-planting days. Extend this to providing employees with tips and education on how to improve their living spaces with plants. Bring in a kitchen garden expert to teach them how to plant a windowsill or balcony garden.

Creative benefits and strategic programs that encourage employees to take ownership of their neighborhoods and enjoy the outdoors can make a huge difference in everyone’s mental health. When we feel like we have a little control over making change, for good, in our homes, our neighborhoods, at work, and with ourselves, it goes a long way toward improving the quality of our relationships, our mental health, and work.

Make mental health a priority at work and succeed. Start with an employee survey to develop meaningful action plans based on what your contributors need.

"Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but you are not the rain." — Matt Haig

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