If there is one positive thing to come out of the pandemic, it is the collective effort to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Twenty years ago, the conversation on mental and emotional health was very different—mainly because there wasn’t one, at least not in the way there is today.
The events of the past few years have highlighted how no one is immune from a blow to mental and emotional health, particularly when large-scale traumatic events impact all of us. This makes mental health a priority for everyone.
Consider that nearly two-thirds of Americans spend most of their day and the majority of their waking hours at work. The workplace can significantly impact employee well-being positively or negatively. This creates a unique opportunity and responsibility for business leaders.
According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 put into employee mental health, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. Recognizing this, many employers who care deeply about the well-being and success of their employees want to understand what they can do to make a difference.
Utah Community Builders, the Salt Lake Chamber’s social impact foundation, partnered with mental health experts to create the Suicide Prevention in the Workforce Employer Toolkit, which provides businesses a guide for sustaining, promoting, and improving the mental health of our workforce. The foundation then identified industries with unique challenges to workforce resilience: construction, hospitality, and the legal profession.
This led to the creation of three new guides tailored to these industries. “Living Well in Law” addresses burnout, engagement, and well-being in the legal profession. “Resilience in Hospitality” provides best practices for mental health in Utah’s world-class hospitality sector. “Total Safety” builds upon the construction industry’s progress in improving physical safety at the job site by incorporating mental and emotional safety off the job.
A common theme in each of the guides is the importance of three key ingredients: leader modeling, manager training, and employee resources.
- Leader modeling. Organizational change that starts at the top has the best chance for success. Because mental health can be a difficult or awkward subject in the workplace, setting an example and talking about mental health can set the stage for a workplace culture that supports mental fitness.
- Manager training. Equipping managers with the necessary skills and training empowers them to help make the workplace an environment that values mental health and addresses it openly. Additionally, this builds trust in company leaders and creates an environment where employees feel supported. It also boosts loyalty.
- Employee resources. It is vital that employees are made aware of available resources, both the publicly-available crisis intervention resources and everything a business provides through health insurance, HR, or Employee Assistance Programs. Many of these resources can be found in the suicide prevention toolkit and the industry-focused guides, which refer to projects like Live On Utah.
As business leaders, we are responsible for promoting mental and emotional well-being in the workplace. We should never underestimate our role in our employees’ mental health, and each of us can become more mentally and emotionally prepared for this role. By making a plan and taking a stand against stigma, business leaders can save countless lives and ensure Utah’s workforce is resilient, mentally and emotionally fit, and ready for the challenges and opportunities of the future.