There has been a significant rise in full-time US workers struggling with mental health in recent years. The World Health Organization reports that roughly 12 billion working days are lost to anxiety and depression yearly. Unsurprisingly, this leads to mounted costs of decreased workplace productivity, unsafe work conditions, increased absenteeism, presenteeism, and poor employee morale.
A surprising solution that more employers are beginning to recognize is the role a mental health mentoring program can play in supporting employee well-being.
Mentoring programs are an effective way to support and promote positive employee mental health.
Savvy employers know that implementing a mentoring program will positively impact both employees and the business. There are many compelling reasons to start a mentoring program. Examples include enabling staff to live up to their full potential and increase company profits.
In this article, we’re going to zoom in on the specific ways that mentoring programs can promote happy, healthy and productive employees. We’ll look at the root of mental health issues at work, how mentoring can alleviate them, what to look for in mental health mentors, and how they can improve well-being at work.
If you’re ready to kick-start a meaningful and impactful workplace well-being strategy, Together’s mentoring platform can help.
Let’s dive in!
What causes mental health problems in the workplace?
Many factors impact mental health in the workplace. These factors can increase the risk of work-related stress, and employees can be affected by more than one of these factors at a time.
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), the most prevalent causes of stress and anxiety in the workplace are:
- Deadlines - Struggling to meet deadlines can be very stressful.
- Interpersonal relationships - When workers feel unable to connect with team members, this can be a breeding ground for conflict.
- Staff management - When supervisors cannot effectively manage their colleagues.
- Unexpected crises - When workers suddenly face an unexpected problem or have to do last-minute damage control.
- Job uncertainty - Staff feeling unsure about their career trajectory and security can increase stress levels.
- Low recognition - Not being rewarded for their efforts makes workers twice as likely to experience mental health issues.
- Excessive workload - A heavy workload can cause exhaustion or burnout, negatively affecting employees’ productivity and ability to function.
- Unclear job description - When employees need more clarity about their day-to-day functions or who they report to.
- Bullying - Unreasonable, repeated behavior targeting an individual or specific group of workers can be highly stressful.
- Stigma - Mental illness is a taboo topic for many people, and many are uncomfortable speaking about their mental health status with colleagues.
Admittedly, many of the stresses that some employees may experience at work are caused by systemic issues in the workplace. Organizations need to take more drastic measures to address the issues of toxic workplace culture, prejudice, discrimination, or unfair practices.
In these cases, connecting employees with mentors isn’t the solution. But providing employees with opportunities to connect with mentors who create a safe space to discuss mental health challenges can provide an outlet for employees to talk about their challenges.
For issues like stress management, interpersonal relationships, and recognition, mentors can be key pillars of support.
Let’s look at how mentoring improves the mental health of employees.
How mentoring improves the mental health of employees
There are many benefits to mental health mentoring in the workplace. A mental health mentoring program breaks down communication barriers, gives workers a chance to prove themselves, and improves working relationships. Mentoring has also been found to help employees with stress management.
Mentoring has powerful benefits for employees. The benefits aren’t just anecdotal. Employees with access to mentoring opportunities experience the following benefits:
- Mentees are promoted five times more often than workers without a mentor.
- Retention rates of workers enrolled in a mentoring program are significantly higher than those who are not; mentees by 22% and mentors by 20%.
- A one-week group mentorship program saw participants' topic knowledge increase from 32% to 97%.
Mentors teach and assist employees in overcoming and managing specific challenges and general stress management.
Mentors also help workers handle additional responsibility by setting objectives and holding mentees accountable to follow through.
A mental health mentoring program provides a safe space for employees to share their difficulties without fear of repercussions. This will improve staff loyalty, staff morale, and staff engagement, which in turn increases productivity.
Why is it important to have mental health mentors for employees?
With studies showing mental health issues arising in the workplace, many workers are already receiving psychological counselling.
While mentoring does not replace professional therapy, it can maximize the benefits of counselling for employees. That’s why providing psychological mentoring in the workplace and other counselling services to employees is beneficial to all parties involved.
Though counselling provides effective strategies for workers to navigate their challenges, a mentorship program provides a stable support system.
Some of the unique benefits a mentee can derive from mentorship are:
- Increased self-confidence
- Awareness of different approaches
- Expert guidance and advice
- Personal and professional development opportunities
- Opportunity to test new ideas and learn critical processes
- Access to a network of peers, such as coworkers
- An understanding of how organizations function
Mental health mentoring programs in the workplace are a relatively new practice. Let’s unpack more about who can be a mental health mentor to their colleagues.
Who can be a mental health mentor, and what do they do?
As mentioned in the previous section, a mentor can’t replace a therapist or a mental health counsellor. Mentors aren’t a substitute to qualified professionals. Instead, mentoring can provide the interpersonal support that professional services of mental health specialists can’t always provide.
Likewise, mentors can provide a different type of support than the team and managers. A great mentor is a guide, role model, advisor, and colleague. They help their mentees grow personally and professionally and help mentees identify and reach their goals.
The benefits of mentorship will go a long way toward making the workplace more positive and productive.
A good mentor will regularly check in on their mentees and provide input to help them move toward goal achievement.
Any employee with in-depth knowledge of their field and a genuine desire to share this knowledge can apply to be enrolled in a mentorship program.
Would-be mentors should have a firm grasp of company culture and a strong comprehension of the mentoring responsibilities.
Also, the following are valuable characteristics that any aspiring mentor should have:
- Communication skills
- A love for learning
- High levels of dedication
- A team player spirit
- A positive attitude
Again, mentoring doesn’t replace professional counselling. Instead, it’s a support system to maximize the benefits of any counselling employees have.
How can mental health mentors grow and improve positive mental health in the workplace?
One of the main causes of stress mentioned above was the stigma around sharing mental health challenges.
Mentors can be supportive role models for employees struggling with the stigma of mental illness. They can offer an empathetic ear to their mentees, understanding their fears of sharing their challenges and guiding their mentees to solutions.
When all employees have access to mentors, it’s much easier to achieve and maintain a productive, happy, and healthy workforce. Mentoring boosts productivity and self-confidence, reduces anxiety levels, and much more.
Below are the eight best ways mentors can improve positive mental health at work:
- Support and encouragement in career and personal development. A mentor is there to advise employees and share insight and knowledge. Workers become more motivated and goal-oriented.
- Useful behavioral feedback. Self-awareness is a big plus in the workplace, and behavioral feedback can help workers improve their communication and teamwork.
- Career advancement opportunities. Mentors help to improve confidence and focus. A mentor can help a mentee find a clear path forward and build skills for advancement or promotion.
- Self-confidence. Mentoring relationships allows ideas to be shared without fear of judgment. This will enable mentees to experience personal growth and embrace their vulnerabilities.
- Reduced stress and anxiety levels. A great mentor helps a mentee find solutions to challenges in a secure environment. The mentor can help the mentee to see that the problem can be overcome and that stress can be avoided or minimized.
- Learning new skills. Mentors can help mentees identify their strengths and weaknesses and learn ways to help manage their challenges.
- Isolation. Mentors are people that workers can talk with and trust. Opening up to a mentor can make workers feel less alone.
Having learned how a positive and mentally healthy work environment boosts staff productivity, we can see how a workplace mentoring program can help workers reach their goals and realize their full potential.
As a leader, you may be interested in knowing how to offer those benefits to your workforce.
Rather than googling “mental health mentors near me,” consider Together’s mentoring software. When launching a mentoring program on our platform, employees can easily be paired with relevant mentors.
If you're ready to learn more about our mentoring software, connect with our team.