How to Support Employee Mental Health and Avoid Startup Burnout

People are primarily looking to be supported by their employers. They want to know that they can take PTO without the company thinking they’re slacking, or have the flexibility to go running in the middle of the day, or pick up their kids from school. We are in a new era of benefits, and people are looking for meaningful support, and mental wellness benefits playing a huge role in that.

Supporting mental health and workplace wellness is a top employee benefit, and the ROI is clear. It reduces absenteeism, turnover, and health care costs. Plus, making sure your employees feel supported professionally, physically, and mentally is key to attracting and retaining talent.

If you’re wondering how to do it, here are some ways you can support employee mental health and wellness.

14 ways to support employee mental health and wellness

1. Offer mental health days – no questions asked.

Building a policy around mental health days into your employee benefits package is a great way to show that you support employee mental wellness. Some companies like ScriptDrop have mandatory mental health days once a month. Other companies take a whole, company-wide week off to recharge.

And if you want to provide some flexibility with your policy, let employees take it as they need it, no questions asked. If they need a day off last minute, it doesn’t have to be a PTO or a sick day. It’s a mental health day, and it’s great to let employees take them.

2. Provide a coaching program.

Many companies have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), but they often go underused and are geared toward crisis management and intervention (suicide prevention, major life traumas, substance abuse, etc.). They are not designed to address the day-to-day proactive mental well-being needs of most workers.

Providing a consistent, goal-oriented, personal coaching program is a great way to proactively create mental well-being in the workplace and build a happy, productive and engaged team. Coaching programs, like Boon Health for example, can help employees build resilience, build their professional development, and feel supported at work.

3. Support a mentorship program.

Having a mentorship program at the office is another great way to support employee mental health and help them avoid burnout. Even if the mentor isn’t a trained coach or therapist, having someone to talk to regularly about professional challenges can be so helpful for employees.

If you have a large company, feel free to use your internal network to match people with mentors. If your company is smaller, you can always look to outside experts who are willing to help your team.

4. Recognize other holidays with personal significance days.

Of course, not everyone celebrates the same holidays. For many folks, people have to take PTO to observe the days that are important to them. But some companies like Signal Advisors and Rocket companies allow employees to observe personal significance days. These are days that employees choose to have off because they are meaningful to them. Maybe it’s a birthday, or holiday, or the anniversary of a loved one’s death. If it’s important for them to be off that day, let them have the time they need.

5. Have Summer Fridays.

Summer Fridays are a great way to help employees recharge and come to work feeling more balanced and ready to rock. There has been a lot of recent research on the benefits of a 4-day work week. If you’re not ready to dive into that, start with half days on Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s a great way to help employees relax and take the time they need with family and friends.

Worried about productivity? If you’ve hired the right people, productivity will be just fine.

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6. Lead by example when it comes to work-life balance.

Talking a big talk when it comes to work-life balance only goes so far. If the leadership team never takes PTO or is constantly emailing when they’re supposed to be on PTO, the team takes notice and thinks that’s the norm (because that’s the norm you’re setting). Actions speak louder than words.

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To really help support employee mental health, make sure you’re checking out when you’re supposed to be. Successful startups like Provide and Workit Health really lead by example and encourage others to disconnect if they’re logged off or on PTO. It’s all about building a culture that normalizes empathy and time for yourself.


4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Boost Their Mental Health

7. Be remote-friendly.

There’s no doubt that being remote friendly can help people’s mental health. It can eliminate nasty commutes, give people time back in their day, help people feel comfortable at work, and give employees the flexibility they need to do work and life.

8. Host a company retreat.

Now, on the flip side, being totally remote can also have a negative effect on employee mental health. It can make people feel isolated or disconnected if there isn’t a strong virtual culture.

Hosting a company retreat every once in a while is a great way to bring the team together and reconnect. It also helps get the team out of their daily grind and can re-center the company’s purpose and vision. It’s a great way to remind employees of why they do what they do and build connections with the team.

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PAXAFE team retreat

Another tip: some people might not have the space for an at-home office. Helping them with their setup or providing a co-working stipend is a great way to support virtual employees and help them feel connected.

9. Provide a wellness stipend.

Wellness can encompass so many things: physical, mental and spiritual. Offering a wellness stipend is a great way to support employees and make sure they’re coming into work feeling refreshed and recharged. Companies like Signal Advisors and Veeva Systems offer monthly wellness stipends to employees for gym memberships, yoga classes, meditation apps, therapy sessions and more. It’s all about helping your employees take care of themselves.

10. Allow flexible schedules.

Like remote flexibility, schedule flexibility can be so helpful for employees who are juggling a lot. Child care, elderly parent care, buying a house, trying to get in shape at the gym… having a flexible schedule can help employees take care of these needs and still get work done. It causes less stress for employees and the opportunity to work when they can — and work best. Have some night owls on your team? Let them jam when they feel inspired.

Pro-tip: it’s good to establish with your team a couple hours of overlap. This way if people need help with anything, want to collaborate, or just connect and build relationships, there are set hours when everyone is on and available.

11. Offer a subscription to Headspace, Calm or other mental wellness app.

If building out a large-scale mentorship or coaching program isn’t feasible for your team, you can always try offering a subscription to a wellness-focused app like our friends at Root do. Headspace, Calm and other mental wellness apps can help employees get the help they need, and you can help them cover the cost through a stipend or sponsored subscription.

12. Offer a competitive salary and other financial benefits.

Financial wellness can often be linked to stress and anxiety. Having financial support at work can help ease those feelings, so it’s important to make sure you offer employees good financial benefits. Competitive salary, equity, 401(k) . . . Whatever financial bonuses or benefits you can offer will help them feel supported. If you want to go the extra mile, you could even offer financial literacy classes to help your employees gain confidence over their finances.

Plus, when workers are underpaid for the work they do, it can be demoralizing, frustrating and unmotivating. It’s all about making sure employees feel supported and valued, so be sure to put your money where your mouth is.

13. Communicate the benefits you do have to your employees and encourage people to use them.

This may seem obvious, but whatever employee mental health benefits you have, make sure your team knows about it! So often companies have great benefits that go underutilized because people don’t know about them. Communicate often with your team on what’s available to them, and of course encourage them to use it.

It can be hard to talk about mental health, but it’s a normal thing that so many people are dealing with. Talking about it with your team helps people know you care and are supporting them. Normalize talking about it, and normalize taking care of it.

14. Build and grow an empathetic culture.

Of course, none of these benefits mean anything without an empathetic culture. If people don’t feel comfortable taking advantage of a mental health day or reaching out about a Headspace subscription, they’re not going to get the help they need. Supporting employees starts on Day 1 with an empathetic culture and letting people know you’re on their team.

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Originally Posted on Purpose Jobs.

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