(Written by Kevin Joly)
With mental health awareness becoming increasingly prominent, employers need to reevaluate what message they are inadvertently sending to their employees regarding their support of mental wellness. Even without explicitly saying it, employers can mistakenly portray that they do not recognize or take mental health issues as seriously as conditions they can physically observe. Approaching such conditions with skepticism could be seen as a lack of trust in their employees or a lack of empathy. Both can be huge concerns for employee morale and employer reputation.
When an employee gets hurt or has a physical injury, we as employers know how to properly respond. We work with them on their appointments, we ask for documentation to certify their ability to work, and we support their recovery and attempt to get them back to work performing at 100%. When it comes to mental illness, however, employers are often uncertain on the next steps and how they can manage the situation. There are even times during the process where employers struggle to find ways to support the employee and get them back to performing their job duties at full capacity.
Employers may struggle to see the similarities between mental and physical illness at work, but our strategy and support of the employee can be more similar than we think. Just because we cannot physically see the injury or illness, it should not substantially change the process. When an employee mentions they have a mental illness or it is brought to light during a conversation, employers should work through how this affects their work and what they can do to help the employee continue to be successful in their role. Showing that support in the process, just like you would if an employee broke their arm, demonstrates good faith with the employee and sends the message that we care about the employee’s well-being and recovery. By establishing this collaborative relationship with your employee, you may be able to create a more cooperative situation and increase your employee’s loyalty and engagement with the organization.
Each ADA situation is a case-by-case situation and if you ever needed support, the EANE hotline can connect with an experience HR partner to talk through the scenario. Give us a call at 877.662.6444.