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How to Encourage Mental Health Awareness at Your MSP

Mental health concerns are currently rising in number and importance, accelerated by major global events that seem to be occurring nonstop. The pandemic is arguably the most drastic one in recent history that has impacted people all over the world in almost every aspect of their lives – mental health being one of them. The widespread disruptions of illness and isolation to changes in routines and schedules, have accelerated burnout, anxiety, depression and more. As many MSPs update their mental health practices and learn how to best serve their employees, it is important to know the dos and don’ts for mental health support and awareness.

What Are the Numbers?

According to the CDC, current numbers show almost 1 one out of every 5 adults in the United States (18.3% or 44.7 million people) reported some kind of mental illness or struggle, and nearly 71% reported “feeling overwhelmed or anxious” in 2016 (CDC). Since 2020, Forbes concludes that the number of reported mental illnesses has raised to 1 in every 4, and that trend is expected to continue. Studies by Harvard Business Review suggest that nearly 42% of adults felt their mental health had declined since the first lockdown. It is especially important to consider the mental health of your employees with the new work-from-home business model. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that “40% of global employees said that no one at their company had asked them if they were doing OK,” (HBR). It is important to remember that the increase of mental health concerns is not something to be ashamed of, but something to work closely with your MSPs employees to provide support, and compassion.

Understanding and Recognizing Mental Health Concerns

So, what are mental health concerns, and how do we recognize them? According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses or concerns can be defined as “health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior,” (APA). It is important to recognize that mental health concerns can take many forms, and the impact of these concerns can be extremely negative on the employee. Some side effects of mental health concerns include “distress and/or problems functioning in social” activities (Forbes). Furthermore, the CDC notes that poor mental health may also affect work performance, productivity, communication and physical capability and daily functioning.

Common Mental Health Concerns (especially in a Post-COVID workplace):

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Burnout
  • Trauma

What Can MSPs Do?

In order to fully, thoughtfully, and compassionately address mental health concerns in the workplace, we must consider all of the places where the work environment may be influencing an employee’s mental health. The following strategies and solutions are organized by the three main sectors of the workplace: work atmosphere, interpersonal and management, and the individual.

Atmosphere Solutions

Awareness

One of the most important ways to begin creating a mental-health-positive atmosphere at your MSP is to begin raising awareness about the reality of mental health concerns. There is a lot of stigma surrounding both poor mental health and seeking help for those concerns. Forbes notes that “many employees with mental illnesses may be afraid of seeking help” due to social pressures or possible negative perceptions. It is your responsibility to ensure that everyone at the company feels confident that they can seek help.

In practice this could look like:

  • Providing lunch & learns with therapists
  • Working with a mental health nonprofit to raise awareness
  • Using company correspondence to highlight mental health opportunities
Creating a Cooperative Work Environment

You can also improve mental health through the workplace atmosphere by focusing on compassionate communication and creating intentional opportunities to mitigate stress. This is especially important in the work-from-home format.

In practice this could look like:

  • Reframing performance reviews as opportunities for compassionate feedback
  • Mitigating stress by communicating understanding for schedule changes
  • Fostering a cooperative culture where seeking help is encouraged and seen as a sign of strength
  • For returning to an in-person work environment: creating dedicated spaces for peaceful activities and quiet time

Interpersonal Solutions

Empower Employees

To provide a positive mental health environment, it is important you’re your employees feel that they have a voice in the company and that their work and input is valued.

In practice this could look like:

  • Giving employees opportunities to participate in discussions about issues that affect job stress.
  • This could include project timelines, task allocation, and deadline setting.
  • Providing training for your team to assist with:
    • Identifying mental health concerns
    • Encouraging employees to seek treatment
    • Ensuring privacy and trust
    • Rewarding employees who seek help for their mental health
Prioritize Interpersonal Communication

Another key place that mental health comes into play is internal communication. Focusing on creating a positive space for communication among your team will provide opportunities to improve mental health in the workplace.

In practice this could look like:

  • Opening up about your own mental health struggles as a leader to create trust and comfort
  • Making mental-health check-ins a priority
  • Asking specific questions about the support needs of your employees
  • Listening to employee questions and concerns and responding with compassion and active solutions
    • For example, something more than “I hope you feel better.” A phrase like “What can we do to support you?” would be more effective.
  • Avoid overbearing or micromanaging communication styles
  • Paying attention to employee privacy
  • Remember, compassionately responding includes knowing when not to be involved.

Individual Solutions

Make Tools Available

Ensure your employees have tools at their disposal to ensure they can actively work on their mental health in a way that works for their individual needs. These will help employees recover more quickly, encourage employees to open up, and allow employees to see that you take mental health concerns seriously.

In practice this could look like:

  • Making self-assessment tools available to all employees.
  • Ensure individual privacy is observed to encourage employees use these tools
  • Offering free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression/anxiety
  • This should always be performed by a qualified mental health professional with directed feedback and opportunities for clinical referrals when appropriate
  • Providing free, regular counseling to employees with mental illness.
Recognize and Work with Individual Needs

Finally, no two individuals experience mental illness, anxiety, depression or burnout the same way. Recognizing individual needs and allowing employees to have agency in their mental health journey is key to providing a positive mental health environment.

In practice this could look like:

  • Providing accommodations to employees who require alternative schedules such as:
  • Flexible or reduced hours
  • Assistance/accommodations due to mental or physical health
  • Being flexible with your employees as needs change
  • Capitalizing on the benefits of the work-from-home format and offering a more flexible workspace

Remember, accommodating your employees as individuals doesn’t mean you need to lower your standards.  

 

Resources:

CDC

FORBES

HARVRD BUSINESS REVIEW

NAMI  

 

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[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://syncromsp.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Caitlin_Headshot.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Caitlin Good is the Content Marketing Manager at Syncro with more than 10 years of experience in the technology and eCommerce industries.[/author_info] [/author]   © 2022 Syncro. All Rights Reserved. This document is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Syncro makes no warranty, expressed nor implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information contained herein.

Caitlin Good

Denver-based content marketing manager for Syncro. Curator of new experiences: creating compelling and helpful content on the weekday, exploring nature and cities on the weekend.

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