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These are the best ways to improve mental health in the workplace

As workers return to the office, many wonder how they can incorporate practice to support staff mental health and well-being.

FILE PHOTO: The Amazon logo is displayed on a sign outside the company's LDJ5 sortation center, as employees begin voting to unionize a second warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York City, U.S. April 25, 2022.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid./File Photo

The covid-19 has taken its toll on the mental health of people around the world.

A nationwide survey in the United States found that around eight percent of people had been diagnosed with depression, while the rate of those with anxiety was three times higher at eighteen percent.

As offices reopen, leaders must provide the support necessary to their employees to support their mental health.

How much time off short firms offer?

The United States stands alone compared to other OECD countries in that firms are not required by federal law to provide vacation days to their workers.

To attract workers, most firms offer vacation benefits. In 2016, ninety-one percent of full-time workers were offered paid time off, with the averages varying between ten and twenty-two days for vacation and seven and eleven for sick days.

Some studies have looked at vacation and sick leave policies across companies to identify trends in how they impact mental well-being. Two scholars at The College of Brockport found clear benefits for workers where they were given and took “ample time off.” Firms have different work cultures and some can discount the importance of taking time off. In these companies, the researchers found that they were “more likely to have a variety of health-related issues [...] such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” which were tied to stress from their job. An earlier study had drawn a connection between low use of vacation and an increase in “physical ailments such as a cold or flu.” For firms where more vacation time is offered, and workers are encouraged to use it, the authors noted “improved personal relationships, increased job satisfaction, and increased energy and creativity.”

How can firms avoid burn out?

Offering generous vacation policies has also been shown to reduce workplace burnout, and thus slow staff turn over. Before the pandemic, in 2019, the World Health Organization formally recognized occupational burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It is important to note that the eliminating burnout should not fall to individual workers and rather represents an issue with the structure of an organization.

In 2021, the Harvard Business Review conducted a survey and found that being overworked was the highest contributing factor to burnout. The research team encourages firms to build a support resource system. This could include training managers to recognize burnout and check in on their direct reports. Managers should remain professional but be seen as someone who will support their team in cases where they are struggling mentally or physically. At the end of the day, burnout is a major driver for many to look for a new job, so it is better for everyone if support systems can either identify those who need help or provide resources to access help themselves.

Firms can also make sure employees are aware of their access to counseling and therepy services that form part of their benefits package. If a company does not currently offer mental health benefits that can be used outside of work, providing those could be a great first step.


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