8 tips on how to look after your employees’ mental health

Without effective support from employers, mental health problems can adversely affect workforce productivity and increase workplace absenteeism. What are the ways to manage these problems? What can companies do to prevent them from happening?

Read on to find answers to the following questions:

  • What is the current state of mental health among Polish employees?
  • What are the possible causes of post-pandemic mental health problems?
  • How can employers support the mental well-being of their employees?

The mental problems of Polish employees are often mentioned in the same breath as other detrimental effects of the pandemic. There is no doubt that prolonged lockdowns in combination with the uncertainty of tomorrow have left their mark on the well-being of Poles. A Benefit Systems report: “Tired, Indifferent and Uncommitted. Post-Pandemic Needs of Employees” (2022) shows that as many as 61% of professionally active Poles experienced mental problems more frequently during the pandemic! However, it would be a mistake to attribute problems with mental well-being solely to recent events. Even before the COVID-19 epidemic a number of studies revealed a widespread rise in mental health conditions due to lifestyle factors. [1]

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An estimated 12 billion workdays are lost annually due to depression and anxiety, costing the global economy nearly $1 trillion. [2]

It’s clear that the mental state of the Polish population has deteriorated compared to the pre-pandemic baseline [1]. Stress levels alone have recently gone up in 53% of respondents, causing a deterioration in health.

However, COVID-19 was a factor that prompted employees to commit themselves to resolving the issue [3]. The attitude of the employees has changed as well. Nearly half of them (48%) today expect mental health support from their employer [4].

What are the ways to prevent the escalation and mitigate the effects of existing mental health problems among the workforce?

1. Streamline communication

It turns out that mental health problems – both directly related and unrelated to the pandemic – are strongly linked to a sense of uncertainty and fears about the future. Nearly one-third (29%) of all employees surveyed for the report “Mental Health of Poles and Their Professional Life” prepared by LiveCareer.pl reported that their working situation was precarious. Among the employees struggling with mental health problems the percentage was 45%, which is close to half of the respondents.

In addition, individuals with mental health problems admit that they are generally dissatisfied with their working conditions or remuneration [5]. The uncertainty of tomorrow, unpleasant workplace atmosphere, and poor salary have a detrimental impact on the mood of the workforce. Some of these problems can be managed not through a rapid influx of cash (this would be unrealistic advice), but a comprehensive, honest and open approach to communication, namely informing the workforce of the situation on the market and the company’s solutions to new challenges. Who knows, it might be a good way to turn fear into motivation to pursue a shared goal.

2. Give space

According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission, respondents from Central and Eastern Europe fare best in terms of mental health. However, experts claim that such surveys do not prove that Central and Eastern Europeans cope with stress better. Quite the opposite: in the countries of our region there is less awareness of mental hygiene, a greater stigma is attached to poor mental health, and there’s a problem with access to psychiatrists and psychotherapists [1]. Companies are able to influence all these factors, enabling all employees, e.g. online psychologist consultations.

Let’s start with the stigma around mental health problems. Companies are advised to implement policies and procedures to ensure that their employees are not afraid to talk about their issues and to know who they can turn to when they experience a decline in their mental well-being. Appropriate information about such procedures can be provided by managers, but employees should have ongoing access to them on the intranet. The intranet is also a good platform for posting information about courses and training sessions available in benefit programs (such as MultiLife’s mindfulness course).