Guidance and Tips for Employers
Workplaces can have many stressors. Issues in the workplace can exacerbate the risk of experiencing mental health challenges. Combined, these stressors can make it more difficult for workers to get their tasks done; threaten their productivity, happiness, and well-being; and lead to burnout. Because of the many potential stressors employees may be experiencing, a comprehensive approach is needed to address stressors throughout the community, and employers can be part of the solution. More than 85% of employees surveyed in 2021 by the American Psychological Association reported that actions from their employer would help their mental health.
The goal is to find ways to alleviate or remove stressors in the workplace to the greatest extent possible, build coping and resiliency supports, and ensure that people who need help know where to turn. Reducing workplace stress benefits everyone across an organization. It can improve morale and lead to increased productivity and better focus, fewer workplace injuries, fewer sick days, and improved physical health (e.g., lower blood pressure, stronger immune system). All these factors can also lead to reduced turnover among an employer’s workforce.
In fact, the World Health Organization estimate that for every dollar U.S. employers spend treating common mental health issues, they receive a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. Employers can make a difference when it comes to helping their staff manage stress. Key things they can do include:
- Be aware and acknowledge that people can carry an emotional load that is unique to their own circumstances. They may be experiencing heightened levels of loneliness, isolation, uncertainty, grief, and stress; and some may face additional demands, such as parents caring for children or elderly household members; and those with existing mental health or substance use challenges.
- Identify factors are making it harder for workers to get their jobs done and determine if adjustments can be made.
- Show empathy. Ensure workers that 1) they are not alone, 2) their employer understands the stress they are under, 3) there is no shame in feeling anxious, and 4) asking for help is important. Employers can reassure employees they are open and receptive to discussions about employees’ work stress, by creating a safe and trustworthy space.
- Provide access to coping and resiliency resources, workplace and leave flexibilities without penalty, or other supportive networks and services. Research from the American Psychological Association suggests 50 % of employees find that a lack of paid time off or sick leave has a negative impact on stress levels at work.
The following resources provide guidance to help employers alleviate workplace stress and support mental health.
- Getting Started Guides for Employers. These aim to help employers gain confidence about talking to workers about workplace stress, mental health, and substance use.
- Mental Health Checklists for Employers. These identify ways for employers to alleviate workplace stressors and support mental health.
- Workplace Stress Sample Survey Questions. This document provides sample questions that employers could ask to determine whether adjustments can be made to reduce workplace stress, and if staff need mental health support.
- Myth Buster Fact Sheet. This dispels myths that might make workers reluctant to talk about workplace stress and mental health challenges. Employers could distribute this to employees or display in the workplace to reduce the stigma surrounding these topics.
- Preventing Suicides. This webpage provides information on the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, and links to access to useful resources.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with resources and aid to those affected by suicide, including Risk Factors and Warning Signs.
- The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) - Opioid Resources to help prevent opioid deaths in construction.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Suicide Prevention Webpage, providing information on facts, risks and protective factors, prevention strategies, tips for dealing with stress, and other resources.
- Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP) with resources, articles, and websites.
- Construction Working Minds, highlighting resources on how to address workplace suicide for workers, managers, and industry associations.
- HWC: The Healthy Work Campaign. Resource includes tools that are specific to employers including a healthy work survey with recommendations
- Suicide in the Construction Industry: Breaking the Stigma and Silence: American Society of Safety Professionals with recommendations on how to start a conversation in the industry, and three keys for providing help.
- U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers' Compensation Programs - New Opioid Policy to Protect Federal Injured Workers that provides resources to combat the opioid epidemic and reduce the potential for opioid misuse and addiction among injured federal workers.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Suicide Prevention with resources for veterans and their loved ones, friends, and health care providers.
- NIOSH Total Worker Health® Program. This program provides a holistic approach to worker well-being to assist employers in improving the safety and health of workers.
- NIOSH Center of Excellence: Oregon Healthy Workforce Center. This center provides fact sheets and articles that identify actions employers can take to support workers and alleviate their stress.
- The National Safety Council has provided a list of top mental health, stress reduction, and substance misuse resources, including:
- SAFER: Stress, Emotional & Mental Health Considerations. This playbook educates leaders, supervisors, and human resources representatives about ways to ensure that workers returning to the workplace have the mental health support they need.
- Working With Benefits Providers: Mental Health Issues Checklist. This identifies specific services that employee assistance programs and health insurance providers can offer to help workers cope with stress.
- Training and Supporting Supervisors in Addressing Substance Use. This fact sheet speaks of the importance of being a recovery-friendly workplace.
- Opioids At Work Employer Toolkit. This free toolkit offers materials that will help employers create recovery-friendly workplaces, including sample policies, fact sheets, posters, and videos.
- Addressing Employee Mental Health and Distress: NSC Recommendations for Employers. This resource provides a list of recommendations and steps employers can take to support mental health in the workplace.
- The American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health
- Making the Business Case. This website shares information highlighting why investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good for your business.
- Mental Health Topics. This webpage provides information about various mental health topics including specific disorders, warnings signs, and access to care.
- Mental Health America
- Workplace Mental Health Programs. This website offers resources that employers can use to create supportive work environments and highlights a national certification program (the Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health) that recognizes employers who stand out in this area.
- Mental Health Resources for Employers. Resources include extensive list on mental health tips, how to integrate better practices, and how to put employees first.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- The Mental Health Movement in the Workplace. This blog entry discusses the benefits of addressing mental health in the workplace and lists actions that employers can take to do so.
- The Ultimate Workplace Mental Health Toolkit. This document, produced by NAMI’s Chicago affiliate, provides a primer for employers on mental health, stigma, stress and toxic stress, and burnout. It also outlines the components of an overall approach that employers can take to promote worker well-being and offers several tools (e.g., checklists, surveys, conversation planners) to help them achieve success.
- American Psychological Association
- Supporting Employee Mental Health When Reopening the Workplace
This article offers suggestions on ways that employers can make the transition back to onsite work easier after working remotely for a lengthy period of time.
- Stress Management for Leaders Responding to a Crisis
This fact sheet offers tips for leaders (e.g., supervisors, managers) to help them handle their internal stressors so they can lead effectively.
- Striving for Mental Health in the Workplace Guide. This resource shares tips on how to shift workplace culture to address mental health stigma and support employee well-being.
- Supporting Employee Mental Health When Reopening the Workplace
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- For Leaders: Helping Employees in the Aftermath of Loss. This document explains what employers can do to support grieving staff.