The topic of mental health has become one that’s more easily talked about in recent years. There are always conversations on social media about it, but what about in the workplace? Mental health may feel like more of a sticky subject in a place where you only feel comfortable making small talk, but it’s crucial that people are supported and provided for in this regard.

Read on to learn what you can do at work during mental health awareness month. You don’t need to be an office manager to make a change — being an advocate is the only step you need to take that matters.

1. Emphasize Personal Development

Personal development is a broad category because it’ll look different for every person. Not everyone will struggle with the same mental health issues or need the same resources to overcome them.

That’s why it’s important to cover the many aspects of personal development when it comes to mental health, including your diet. Diet has been proven to be a major factor when it comes to increasing the severity of mental health symptoms. You can put up posters about this in the office kitchen or break room so people can read about the importance of healthy food while they’re eating lunch or leaving for the night.

Offices can also encourage healthy eating by providing nutritious snacks and drinks to employees. Sugar-free drinks, sparkling waters, and low-carb snack foods are great first steps toward changing the office diet culture and improving mental health.

Personal development covers more than just a person’s nutritional needs. It’s also about developing the confidence that’s eroded by bad mental health.

Anxiety is a major mental health issue many working people deal with while juggling their workplace responsibilities. This can be improved by allowing more flexible work-from-home days. Working from home gives people the space to do what they need to do in a less stressful environment, stopping anxiety in its tracks.

Talk with HR about being more flexible with working from home hours, so people feel more comfortable asking to step away from their desk for the day.

2. Build a Better Future

While tending to personal health and making the workplace more positive are good efforts to make when addressing mental health issues, it’s even more important to build a better future through ongoing practices.

This is when the HR department and leadership teams will really come into play. People will listen and follow those who are in charge, which is why it’s crucial for leaders to take the first steps.

First, recognize that not everyone will be able to name what they’re struggling with or see they have a problem at all. Guide employees to screening tools that are available 24/7. They can use them on their own time to quietly decide how they can best help themselves.

Next, employees have to be given access to resources that will help them through more than their lunch break. Sound therapy is one way co-workers can improve their mental health on an ongoing basis. It’s nearly identical to meditation in a few ways:

  • They both focus on controlled breathing
  • Relaxation of the mind is key
  • Both will lower your heart rate

The difference is that sound therapy emphasizes the quiet sounds around you, rather than needing everything to be quiet. This can be done by a group before, during, or after work. It’s a bonding experience that will target negative mental health habits while bringing everyone closer together.

3. Create a Positive Space

Office spaces can be unintentionally cold and unwelcoming. The fluorescent lights, old carpet, and lack of windows turn it into a place people want to escape from as soon as they walk in. Being unwelcoming creates a subconscious tension for employees to deal with when they start their day. It’s time to make offices a more positive place.

One way many workplaces are doing this is by allowing dogs to come to work with their owners. Canines are known for being a source of constant happiness and love. Having them in the office can alleviate depression symptoms and also open the doors for better interoffice teams. People can use the presence of dogs to start conversations, make friends, and learn how to work together.

The most positive thing you can do in your workplace is to create a space of thankfulness. Many times, people’s hardest efforts get overlooked when everyone is striving to meet deadlines.

Not being thanked is a weight on the shoulders of every employee who does their best every day. Being grateful shows you value the person and recognize all they do to make the office a better place.

Make an effort every day to thank people for what they do. You can even consider throwing together an annual dinner event that will validate the hard work everyone does. This positivity will keep people from thinking negatively about themselves or their efforts during their next big project.

Making mental health a priority in your workspace will change the vibes in your office and improve how your employees feel. Listening to your team members is the best way to build a better future for your workspace. If everyone has a voice, the entire office can work together to address mental health issues and move forward together.

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is the owner and editor of Productivity Theory, a blog about lifehacking and self-fulfillment. To read more posts by Kayla, you can subscribe to her blog or follow her on Twitter.