As the pandemic recedes, mental health, stress and fatigue are key concerns among agency HR leaders. National surveys also confirm this trend, with a 2021 MindShare Partners survey revealing that 76% of full-time employees reported experiencing at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year, a 27% increase from 2019. 

Although employees may have grappled with mental health issues in the past, the pandemic’s outsized impact and increased media coverage have given more people a new language to describe their feelings. Agencies are moving swiftly to enlist help, embrace empathy, and encourage transparency. 

There’s no simple solution to responding to employee mental health, but below are six strategies HR leaders are using to help cultivate a culture of care and empathy.  

1. Enlist help. 

Even if you feel your HR team is equipped to handle mental health issues, it is too important to get it wrong. Many HR executives have either brought in suicide prevention experts or conducted trainings through their healthcare provider to help managers better notice and understand certain mental health signs.  

2. Start at the beginning.

Ensure your onboarding process covers mental health topics. Double-check that your job descriptions are accurate and reflect the current responsibilities.  Highlighting the mental health resources offered by your insurance provider and EAP (employee assistance program) is an important early conversation. 

3. Over-communicate.

Employees suffering from mental health issues in silence make their lives harder and impact their teammates, clients, and the organization. Regardless of the policies you have in place, find opportunities in internal communications, signage in the office, and other means to let employees know they can reach out if they’re struggling. This is especially important in hybrid or fully remote situations where you may not see signs of issues as easily.  

4. Give senior managers the right tools to help.

A study by the Workforce Institute at UKG found managers had as great an influence on employee mental health as spouses or partners, and a bigger influence than therapists. Training managers to notice signs and not contribute to mental health concerns can help alleviate many larger issues. 

5. Consider other remedies.

One agency carves time out for mental health, so employees do not have to take sick days when they are not physically sick. Temporarily paring back client workloads can help a struggling employee. 

6. Continually re-evaluate.

One leader recommended that agencies regularly review all tasks to make sure the client is benefitting versus something is being done because of habit. Reviewing processes to see if anything can be reinvented to be better, stronger, or quicker could help alleviate some stress.   

Research continues to evolve on addressing employee mental health. Agencies are trying to strike the right balance of being responsive and proactive while maintaining a degree of sensitivity and privacy to individual issues. Continuing to make mental health an organizational priority will create a healthier and more stable work environment for all.