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It’s time to re-address a topic we tackled last year at this time – mental health accommodations in the workplace. Investing in the mental health of your employees is more important now than it was the last time we talked about this topic. It remains at the top of the initiative list of priorities for employers. 

It’s estimated that 40% of employers have ramped up their mental health accommodations in the workplace as a result of the pandemic. Despite this, a recent survey by BetterUp found that “71% of respondents reported pushing through a difficult mental health struggle to avoid taking time off work in the past three months (compared to 59% for a physical health struggle).” When considering gender, this number rises to 80% for women and falls to 59% for men. Age also plays a factor, with more young people “pushing through” than older employees.   

We shared in our previous article that it’s important for employers to know what kind of mental health accommodations in the workplace are required by law. To recap, 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.”  Beyond these legal requirements, however, are evolving best practices and new mental health accommodations in the workplace for those who may not qualify by law but are nonetheless struggling with emotional wellbeing. 

As of October 2020, 53% of workers reported that their mental health was impacted by the coronavirus and a March 2022 survey out of the UK reported that “two out of three employees feel their mental health has worsened in relation to work over the past year,” indicating a continued decline in mental health.

Suggestions

Our previous article suggested the following mental health accommodations in the workplace as best practices: 

  1. Create clear policies. Communication skills are important. Be clear about 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. 
  1. Flexible scheduling. With work at home continuing for many, some employees are still struggling to manage their professional and personal lives. Encouraging a regular routine that includes breaks from the screen is important to support your employee’s mental health in a post-covid world
  1. Regular check-in’s. It’s critical that managers are well trained to communicate and provide empathy for those they lead. Spend time training your managers to be coaches to better support your employees with good listening skills and availability. 
  1. 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.

To know if these initiatives are working, it’s important for employers to constantly evaluate outcomes. Gordon Watson, CEO of AXA Asia & Africa suggested that employers need to apply the same rigor to measuring results in mental health accommodations in the workplace as they do for more traditional business milestones. Forbes suggested three measurable benchmarks for organizations to determine the effectiveness of their mental health initiatives. 

A year from now we may need to update this article again as new data and measures emerge. Until then, continue to diligently give attention to the mental health of your employees and feel free to share with us what’s working in your organization.