How can employers address the effects of employees’ mental health issues in the workplace?

More than ever, we are witnessing our employees’ mental health issues spill over into the workplace. How do employers handle these issues at work?

Employers across the board are experiencing limited resources and high demand for production. Employees are stressed, managers are stressed, and the line between work and home has never been blurrier. We see firsthand the impact on employees, who frequently tell us that mental health challenges affect their ability to focus, make decisions, communicate with colleagues, and even retain information.

Are employers equipped to handle this?

Of course they are. But managers need to know how to recognize the employee who needs assistance, how to communicate effectively with them, and then properly raise the conversation to HR.

And, employers must navigate the balance between employee accountability and accommodation. If an employee’s mental health is impacting performance, we often manage the situation through the usual performance management methods. Instead, adjust the focus to a two-part conversation, one that considers employee accountability, AND one where we listen to the employee and make adjustments to help them succeed.

How do employers get there?

Think holistically about the employee experience:

  • Employees crave the flexibility they had during the pandemic. So, employers should have a real solution for issues that are here to stay, like remote work or schedule flexibility.
  • Next, where mental health concerns are raised, avoid the knee-jerk reaction of forcing the employee on a leave of absence. Instead, engage in an authentic discussion with the employee about fitness for duty and reasonable accommodations, arriving at solutions that work for both of you.
  • Also, reimagine your EAP, which must be more than checking a box. Consider wellness coaching programs with 1:1 tailored support and strategies to improve employee well-being.
  • Finally, normalize mental health conversations. This must have buy-in from the C-suite, and leaders have to be active participants in this discussion. This is when you trend toward success.

For more information or to address your specific concerns when addressing employee mental health issues in the workplace contact your Littler counsel.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.