Mental Health Accommodations in the Workplace
Heidi Zwart
mental health accommodations in the workplace

Investing in the mental health of your employees is good business. It’s no longer optional to relegate mental health benefits and awareness to the nice-to-have category. Mental health accommodations in the workplace have moved to the top of the list of priorities for employers. 

Before diving into the topic, it’s important for employers to know what kind of mental health accommodations in the workplace are required by law. Any organization with 15 or more employees is required by federal law to make “reasonable accommodations” for those who qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Those who qualify must have “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” 

Mental health accommodations in the workplace are not required by an employer for whom it creates an undue hardship, which is specific to each organization, generally based on size and kind of business. Additionally, for an employer to comply with the ADA, the employer must be aware of the disability and it’s the sole responsibility of the employee to disclose this information.  

Beyond legal requirements, however, are other best practices and reasonable mental health accommodations in the workplace for those who may not have a disability but are nonetheless struggling with their emotional wellbeing. As of October 2020, 53% of workers reported that their mental health was impacted by the coronavirus, so the need is apparent. 

Create clear policies

In a work from home environment, clear communication is crucial. Unclear expectations and assumptions can lead to decline in trust, performance, and engagement for employer and employee alike. Create clear policies regarding time off, working hours, length of meetings, and general availability. Knowing what’s expected on both sides is one of the easier, no-cost mental health accommodations in the workplace to develop immediately. 

Flexible scheduling 

With work at home continuing for many, some employees are still struggling to manage their professional and personal lives. In many cases, the two worlds have become enmeshed and mental health has declined as a result. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, encouraging a regular routine that includes regular breaks from the screen is important to support your employee’s wellbeing. 

Regular check-in’s

Managers and supervisors are on the frontline of the mental health issue for any organization. The relationship an employee has with their manager impacts their engagement, business outcomes, and overall life satisfaction more than any other factor in the workplace. It’s critical that managers are well trained to communicate and provide empathy for those they lead. Spend time training your managers to support your employees with good listening skills and availability. 

Reassign job tasks

If you notice an employee struggling with a mental health condition, consider re-assigning some of their responsibilities for the time being. For some, this might be a short-term solution, while others may need a more permanent adjustment to their role. This reasonable mental health accommodation in the workplace is appropriate for those who fall under the ADA disability description and may be appropriate for those who are struggling with a shorter-term mental health issue as well. 

Mental health accommodations in the workplace will continue to require consideration in the months to come. If you’ve successfully implemented a new mental wellbeing strategy in your workplace, reach out and let us know what worked!   

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