4 Ideas for Observing Mental Health Awareness Month at the Office

IPad drawing that reads: Mental Health Matters

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as we’re halfway through the month, it’s a great time to pause and check in with our employees and focus on deliberate action.  If you haven’t done anything to celebrate mental health month, it’s not too late.  


Why You Should Plan Activities for Mental Health Awareness Month (May)

Let’s start with why before we dive into ways you can celebrate. When we hear the term “mental health,” we automatically assume there’s a problem. However, mental health is just as important as our overall health and we can be proactive in just the same way. A study done by Ann Family Medicine showed a direct correlation between productivity and depression. The study, based upon the PHQ-9 score–a rating for depression, proved that for every one-point increase in the score, workers saw a 2% decrease in productivity. What other reason do you need than to focus on your employee’s well-being?


Ideas for Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month at Work


1. Introduce an Open Door Policy

The good news is: It’s not hard to get started. The first thing you could do is to talk about it.  Allowing space for mental health by checking in with your team will create an environment where people feel safe.  Verdant Consulting offers training for employees and leaders around mental health in the workplace and they state, “Emotions are not optional!” It’s true! We can’t help how we feel, but we can listen to our feelings and work through them if we’re allowed to talk about it.  

Creating an environment where mental health, or as Simon Sinek calls it, “Mental Fitness”, is essential to engagement.  Showing that you care by talking about it and sharing your own challenges will start to build that environment.


2. Surprise Your Office with a “Catch Up” Day

Doing things to help support it can also start to drive the mental health culture you want. In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, choose an afternoon or full day to allow employees to focus on themselves. This could be a day off or a “catch up day” in which you cancel meetings in favor of employees doing deep work and focusing on things they’ve wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to, such as professional development.  It’s key that everyone takes the same time away from the day-to-day. When everyone takes the same time off, employees are less likely to fall behind at work because no one else is working or sending emails.  


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3. Introduce a Deep Focus Day

One additional tip is to create a routine that gives employees time to breathe. At one of my previous companies, we implemented Make It Happen Mondays. Every Monday starting at noon, there were no emails or meetings so that employees could focus on getting their most important things done. We also blocked off noon – 2:00 on Fridays to give employees time for planning. These things helped employees feel less overwhelmed by meetings and emails, so they could be more thoughtful about their workweek and, at the same time, help them feel like they accomplished something.


4. Ask for Ideas From Your Team to Build Mental Health into Your Company Culture

While May is Mental Health Month, introducing more mental health activities or programs to your office doesn’t need to be a quick thought this month. It should be something ingrained in your culture and traditions all year long.  What are some things you could do today, tomorrow, and all year to embrace Mental Health Month in your organization?  We’d love to hear what you are doing. Enter your success stories into the comments below.


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