Guide to Shifting Company Culture to Prioritize Mental Health

May 7, 2024

Shifting company culture to prioritize mental health is essential for creating a supportive and inclusive workplace environment. However, addressing mental health stigma and sensitivities within the existing culture can be challenging. This guide outlines steps HR leaders can take to successfully navigate these challenges and foster a culture that values and supports mental health.

Step 1: Assess the Current Culture

If you aren’t already aware of the cultural stance on mental health in your organization, then you should conduct a thorough assessment of the company culture regarding mental health.

  • Gather feedback from employees through surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one discussions to understand their perceptions and experiences related to mental health in the workplace.
  • Identify any existing policies, programs, or initiatives related to mental health and evaluate their effectiveness. You may want to introduce new policies that foster inclusivity, reduce discrimination, and help employees feel safe/protected from negative consequences when it comes to mental health.

Step 2: Educate and Raise Awareness

Stigmas usually come from a lack of knowledge and understanding about mental health and mental healthcare. It’s important to educate and normalize mental health topics to shift your company culture.

  • Develop educational initiatives to raise awareness about mental health and reduce stigma within the organization.
  • Provide training sessions for employees and managers on topics such as recognizing signs of mental health issues, destigmatizing conversations about mental health, and promoting self-care and wellness.
  • Share resources and information about mental health, including available support services and community resources.

Step 3: Lead by Example

You can tell employees that it’s safe to take a mental health day or schedule a therapy session during the workday, but they won’t really believe it until you build enough trust. The best way to do this is with the following steps:

  • Demonstrate leadership commitment to prioritizing mental health by openly discussing the topic and encouraging dialogue within the organization.
  • Implement policies and practices that support employee well-being, such as flexible work arrangements, mental health days, and access to counseling services.
  • Encourage leaders and managers to role model healthy behaviors and prioritize their own mental health, creating a positive example for employees to follow.

Step 4: Create Safe Spaces for Discussion

It’s a good sign that you’re shifting the company culture when employees are comfortable discussing mental health in the workplace. Here are a few tips on how to achieve that:

  • Establish safe spaces within the organization where employees feel comfortable discussing mental health openly and seeking support. This could be explicit or more subtle like through a book club.
  • Encourage the formation of employee resource groups or support networks focused on mental health, providing opportunities for peer support and shared experiences.
  • Foster a culture of empathy and understanding, where employees feel valued and supported regardless of their mental health status.

Step 5: Provide Accessible Resources and Support

Mental health is a sensitive topic, so it’s important that you make it easy for employees to seek out information on their own, and that you provide options.

  • Ensure that information about the mental health benefits program is easily accessible to all employees, including those working remotely or in different locations.
  • Take advantage of various communication channels such as email, company intranet, meetings, and posters to reach employees. Make sure to update existing documentation, like onboarding campaigns, with the new benefits information as well.
  • Ensure that employees have access to a range of mental health resources and support services, including counseling, therapy, and wellness programs.
  • Promote the use of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and other confidential resources, like Tava Health, for employees seeking support for mental health issues.
  • Offer training for HR representatives and managers on how to effectively support employees experiencing mental health challenges and navigate accommodation requests.
  • In addition to launching your new benefit, consider including other free resources in your communication or internal documentation. These can include national and local resources, as well as mental health hotlines.

Step 6: Monitor Progress and Optimize

In order to really know if your culture is shifting, you need to measure progress. Keep your original survey scores and data points accessible as your benchmark, and continue to improve with the following:

  • Continuously monitor the progress of culture shift initiatives through feedback surveys, utilization rates of related benefits, and KPIs related to employee well-being.
  • Adapt your strategies based on feedback and data to address any ongoing challenges or areas for improvement.
  • Celebrate successes and milestones in the journey towards creating a mentally healthy workplace culture, reinforcing the importance of ongoing efforts.

Shifting company culture to prioritize mental health requires commitment, dedication, and a multifaceted approach. By following these steps, HR leaders can address stigma and sensitivities surrounding mental health within the organization and create a workplace where employees feel supported, valued, and empowered to prioritize their mental well-being. By prioritizing mental health, companies can foster a more resilient, engaged, and productive workforce.

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