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Worried at Work? Here’s How Businesses Can Support Mental Health.

May 24, 2021

Over the past year, employers have become increasingly attentive to their employees’ mental health. To mark Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we’re exploring how companies can use everything from smart design strategies to innovative employee benefits programs to support mental health in the workplace.

Give Employees the Tools

Workplace wellness programs can empower employees to take care of their physical and mental health. Things like fresh lunch options, on-site gyms, meditation sessions, yoga classes and even subsidized massages can help workers develop healthy minds in addition to healthy bodies.

Research shows that wellness programs can pay big mental health dividends. After health insurer Aetna started offering free yoga and meditation classes to its more than 50,000 employees, participants reported a 28 percent reduction in stress levels and a 20 percent improvement in sleep quality.

At KI, we’re big believers in workplace wellness. We offer employees a stipend to help cover the cost of a gym membership, pay entry fees for local running races and host quarterly on-site talks with our staff nurse or various wellness experts. In our experience, initiatives like these boost productivity and morale.

Meet Face-to-Face

If you’ve worked from home over the past year, you’ve almost certainly experienced “Zoom fatigue.” Many of us miss connecting in-person with colleagues, mentors and customers.

Face-to-face communication is a pillar of active design, an approach that prioritizes physical activity and healthy living. In-person interaction can help employers build a sense of community and boost overall well-being among employees.

Flexible design solutions help. Lightweight MyPlace Lounge Furniture makes it easy for employees to create a space to have coffee with a coworker one moment and then open the circle for a group chat next.

At workstations, employees can lower height-adjustable Universal Screens to ask a coworker a question about a project or chat about weekend plans. They can lift the screens back up again when they need to focus.

Encouraging movement around the workplace also leads to serendipitous interactions throughout the day. If employees have to head to a different floor to use the copy room or kitchen, they may run into coworkers they otherwise would not have the occasion to see. Those chance collisions could lead to impromptu brainstorming sessions or set the stage for unexpected, meaningful collaborations.

Balance Is Key

One of the most effective ways for employers to boost the mental health of their employees is to meaningfully support them outside the office. That could entail including coverage for therapy in their health plans or implementing more flexible vacation and remote work policies.

When people are in the workplace, regenerative­­ or wellness spaces can provide a much-needed place to unwind or refocus after a long meeting or the successful completion of a project. Employees can recover from a migraine or take a stress break in soothing seating like our Sway Lounge Chairs or sit-how-you-like MyWay Lounge Chairs.

For new mothers, designated private spaces where they can comfortably breastfeed and decompress can make a huge difference in how supported they feel -- and how long they’ll stay with a company. Supportive Affina Recliners with a tablet arm for a breast pump are a great fit for such spaces.

Care For One Another

We’d love to hear more about how the employers you work with are taking action to support mental health. Let me know at jonathan.webb@ki.com.

And for more on Mental Health Awareness Month, check out last week’s blog post on healthcare design and mental health.

 

by Jonathan Webb  Workplace Market Director

Jonathan Webb leads KI’s strategic business unit, serving the business market. Jonathan studies workplace trends, uncovers product gaps and develops solutions with the KI team. Jonathan takes part in advanced workplace strategies and documents his findings through white papers, articles and other publications. His recent publications, Understanding Active Design: The Rise of Human Sustainability and Collegiate Design: The New Driver for Workplace Design, have put Jonathan in the media spotlight. Partnering with thought leaders like AECOM, his publications cover diverse subjects including sit/stand benefits, designing training environments and defining work styles. Jonathan holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh School of Business and is a LEED accredited professional.

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