Can we talk about mental health at work?

How internal communicators can support employee emotional and behavioral health in 2021

With 53 percent of U.S. adults reporting that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to the coronavirus pandemic, employees are especially interested in employer-sponsored mental health services in 2021. Yet, according to a PRCA report, more than 57 percent of communications professionals are hesitant to communicate about mental health issues. What’s the best way for internal communications to support employee mental health in 2021? Here are three strategies.

3 ways internal communicators can open healthy conversations about mental well-being

(1) Become a mental well-being advocate who bridges the gap between employees and executives. In your role, you have the ability to communicate with employees and leadership and often are responsible for connecting the two. To become an advocate for mental health, frequently bring up the effects stress and isolation (and other conditions) have on employee performance during meetings. Help executives recognize the challenges their teams face, and help teams understand the challenges their executives face. By initiating these conversations, you can intelligently integrate these topics throughout your communications.

(2) Discuss the cause and effect of common work-related mental health problems. One of the most authentic ways to begin these conversations is to acknowledge common stressors and bring them to the surface. You can take a case study approach by discussing and analyzing stories within your industry and how best to address them. You can also initiate conversations regarding the loss of work life balance caused by working from home, or the stress caused by challenges of remote onboarding or remote training. According to a MetLife study, 60 percent of employers struggle with a blended work-life world. Part of the mental health problem is people feeling isolated and out of touch. Recognizing how others face the same issues may help people recognize, support and address potential paths to healthy outcomes.

(3) Embed conversations about mental well-being. If you want to promote mental well-being, you must normalize discussions around mental health, beyond brief paragraphs in HR benefits packages and enrollment communications. Explore more holistic benefits packages beyond physical health to include emotional and behavioral health plans. Consider creating an intranet page or Teams channel with the topic of mental wellness, and routinely source and post articles about topics such as stress reduction, meditation, healthy eating, psychology, and emotional support. Collaborate with well-respected leaders or authors for presentations and discussion groups to create positive mental health educational experiences for employees. Conversations about mental well being can happen at all levels of the organization.

In your role, you have the ability to establish, shift, and strengthen the conversation and culture around mental health in your workplace. As it’s a sensitive topic, your organization may just be starting this journey, giving you an opportunity to lead. While that may seem weighty, you have just the skillset to excel in this area. Incorporate tips in your weekly newsletter, partner with HR to create an educational event showcasing your mental health benefits, or create feature videos of employees and leaders in your industry or organization sharing their journeys to mental well being. During these challenging times, your voice may prove valuable on this topic.

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