10 Ways HR Can Support Employees During Mental Health Awareness Month

Though mental health is often thought of as private, the fact of the matter is that pretty much everything around us affects the way we think. And although we do not necessarily need to air our issues publicly, tides have shifted when it comes to openly discussing mental health and wellness. More than ever before, these conversations have entered into our daily lives, whether it be discussing therapy between friends or sharing a heart-felt post about personal struggles on Instagram. 

One of the final frontiers of mental health is talking about it in the workplace. Of course, there are lots of regulations around this. We should never pressure our employees or coworkers to discuss or disclose anything uncomfortable, but that does not mean that offices cannot be supportive of mental wellness. 

Here are ten ideas that you can do to support and facilitate mental health at work, whether it be as an HR representative, chief wellness officer, or simply an employee. 

Get More Plants

Science has shown that office plants can reduce stress, increase productivity and boost creativity among employees. They can also help clean the air in your workspace–pretty amazing. Try to pick up plants that are interesting to look at. It will keep things exciting for both you and your coworkers.

Build Office Community

Biologically, people need other people to feel good. And while coworkers don’t necessarily have to be best friends, camaraderie at work has been shown to increase employee retention. Perhaps more importantly, research has shown that people who are friendly with their coworkers are happier overall than those who are not. 

For those of us in HR or corporate wellness, be sure to offer programs that get people up, moving and out of their comfort zones, a great way to create new friendships and mix things up at the office. If you have less control over office activities, instead try asking someone new out for a cup of coffee or a quick lunch. Sometimes a thirty-minute outing can turn into a lifelong friendship.

Encourage Regular Breaks During Work Hours

Mental health is often dependent on getting good rest. As the fifteen-minute break becomes more and more elusive in offices, it’s an important reminder that sometimes, in order to do our best, we should do nothing at all for a bit. 

Be a leader in your office by taking a minute to yourself every now and then. Get up, stretch, water your office plant, take a walk around the block, chat with a coworker or grab a cup of soothing tea. Odds are that your productivity will soar if you just relax.

Fight for Mental Health Days

Mental health days are becoming increasingly popular leave options in offices: around 23% of workers have said that their employer has offered new mental health benefits during the pandemic. However, that number is not nearly high enough. Mental health can affect the body in similar ways to physical illness, and workplaces must acknowledge how important it is to respect and foster mental wellness. 

If your office does not already offer mental health days as part of a leave package, it’s time to start advocating for it. Those in HR will have a particular upper hand here, but that’s not to say that any worker at a company couldn’t make a difference. Being outspoken about the need will often inspire others to do the same, especially when most people stand to benefit. 

Stock Up on Herbal Tea

As much as we love a good cup of coffee, caffeine and anxiety are not often good friends. Stock up the office kitchen or your individual desk with soothing herbal tea options, a delicious alternative to coffee that can settle you down instead of amping you up.

Provide Informative Workshops

HR representatives: if you are in charge of scheduling office-wide activities, why not try to host something that gives coworkers a little bit of mental clarity? Next time you are tasked to put on an event, look for a program that can support mental health. This could be a session on breathwork, some brisk morning yoga, or a chat with an expert in the field. Or, if you are looking to help employees develop long-term coping mechanisms for mental health, try one of our gardening workshops. Gardens have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mental health over a lifetime.

Learn more about Gardenuity’s corporate partnerships here

Get People Outside

When we step outside into nature, we are reintroduced to a world that exists far beyond ourselves. It’s why being outdoors has been linked to such mental wellness benefits as reducing stress, fighting depression and anxiety, and increasing levels of endorphins and serotonin through exercise. 

Organize a walk around the block at lunchtime or even a picnic on a sunny Friday afternoon. Everyone at the office will be just a little bit happier because of it.

Limit Work During Off Hours

More and more countries are passing laws limiting the contact offices are able to have with employees outside of working hours. While American culture will probably never allow for this to happen on a national level, individual offices absolutely have the power to instate clear rules protecting their employees’ time away from work. Whether it be simply on vacations or more inclusively on nights and weekends, advocate for yourself by setting boundaries around when you can be contacted outside of working hours. Your mental health will thank you. 

Offer Employee Assistance

One of the best ways companies can support mental wellness is by subsidizing proven mental health services for their employees. If you are in HR, try putting together a package for employees that includes access to counseling services, and be sure that their existing health care provides coverage for it as well. If your hands are tied around providing full mental health benefits, you can still help: compile a list of local therapists that can be accessed privately by employees that may need it.

Lead by Example

We often are inspired by those around us. One of the best ways to advocate for mental health in the office is to advocate for it for yourself. Lead the charge in taking mental health days when you need them. Set an out-of-office email over the weekend to let others know that you will not respond to their messages. Take regular breaks to increase your productivity. Having someone else lead by example can often lead to big change throughout an organization.