As a HR professional, you understand the importance of fostering diversity and mental health in your workplace. From ensuring a diverse representation within teams to creating supportive environments conducive to good mental well-being, managing these challenges can be daunting. But with the right tools and strategies, it’s possible to make inclusive cultures that empower staff members up and down the corporate ladder — from front-line workers to senior executives.

In a recent Society of Human Resource Management, April Simpkins, SHRM-CP, PHR, CDP (R, Chief Human Resources Officer for Questco, discussed diversity in the workforce and how it links with mental health. Drawing on years of experience, April explored some case studies. She shared takeaways on communicating these sometimes-difficult topics sensibly while keeping everyone feeling respected, safe, and validated.

“Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. The discussion about mental health may not be in some people’s everyday vocabulary, which might make them uncomfortable. If we make a topic off-limits because it makes us uncomfortable, we’re shutting down valuable communication,” Simpkins advised.

3 Solutions to Common Mental Health and Diversity Issues at Work

Today’s employees face dozens of challenges at work and in their personal lives that can affect mental health. Some include:

  • Inescapable 24-hour news coverage.
  • Access to personal social media.
  • The tense political climate and pressure to “take a side.”
  • Working as an “only” — the “only” individual in the workspace falling in specific demographic areas, for instance, the “only woman” or “only black woman.”

Organizations must acknowledge their employees’ challenges in today’s world. Employers can support mental health by offering resources, time-off policies, and creating a culture of openness and empathy.

Taking care of mental health is an ethical consideration and a sound business decision. April shares three key takeaways to ensure an inclusive workplace prioritizing mental health.

Cultural Change from Top Down

Senior leaders often dictate the organization’s culture. For mental health to be a priority, leaders must create a culture that accepts their employees are sometimes not OK, expect employees to tell leaders when they need more support, and reward employees who take care of their mental health, all while disciplining and correcting leaders who aren’t aligned with these values.

“Sometimes there are movements in lower levels of the organization, but for the whole culture to change, it’s a top-down effort,” April says.

Remote Work as the Norm

The modern-day workplace quickly shifts to always keeping remote work as the norm. Using Zoom not only levels the professional playing field but also allows women in the organization to be heard and participate, no matter what contrasts they reside in.

Not only that, working remotely has its perks, such as comfortability. Remote work provides an environment of convenience, allowing one to maintain a calming level of focus essential for blooming mental health. Beyond comfort in their surroundings, focusing on work from home brings about better work-life balance for employees, which can ultimately lead them to higher levels of job satisfaction and beyond!

Inclusive Policies and Benefits

April encourages companies to create inclusive policies and benefits that expand traditional leave policies and support employees. This includes everything from offering more PTO, sick days, and family and medical leave (FMLA) days off to providing access to employee assistance programs (EAPs) – legal services, grief counseling, eldercare, and childcare support – that aim to help staff with diverse needs and worldviews. April also emphasizes the importance of ensuring everyone has the necessary time to prioritize their mental health and well-being. To provide additional security and safety nets when unexpected crises arise, leaders should implement a crisis management plan ready as an emergency backup for employees dealing with mental health issues.

We invite you to watch the SHRM webinar playback. If you are attending the SHRM 2023 Conference, we’d love to talk more about digital EAP solutions from Uprise Health.

Uprise Health offers digitally enabled behavioral health benefits, including self-guided counseling, chronic care advocacy, and access to mental health support services. Discover how it works by requesting a demo of our platform. If you are attending the SHRM 2023 Conference, we’d love to talk more about digital EAP solutions from Uprise Health. Learn more about Uprise Health.