In the wake of the pandemic, employee mental health is taking its rightful place as a business imperative. Not only are many companies implementing stigma-reduction initiatives, but they are also normalizing reasonable accommodations—most that wind up benefiting all employees. Here, we explore the top five, but first let’s bust a myth:

Myth: Accommodations are Expensive

Fact: In the Job Accommodation Network’s (JAN) most recent survey, almost half of employers said accommodations cost nothing, and 37 percent reported a median one-time cost of $300. Moreover, by law, accommodation cannot pose an undue burden to the employer.

Five Mental Health Accommodations and Their Benefits

Destigmatization Measures

Stigma thrives in silence. Fortunately, a 2022 Fisher Phillips survey found 60 percent of employers starting to have conversations about mental health—whether through ERGs or other workplace initiatives. That’s a good thing. Where stigma is sent packing, employees with mental health conditions are more able to bring their whole selves to the workplace—including the full range of their skills and talents. What’s more, in the absence of stigma, they are far more likely to ask for a simple accommodation that could allow their abilities to shine even more. Ultimately, employers will reap the benefits. Companies that prioritize inclusion of people with a variety of disabilities perform better than peer organizations that lack this level of inclusion.

Flexible Schedules

A 2022 study by McKinsey & Company found that, overall, employees and employers are already embracing flexible schedules and conditions—because it works. “Employers report many benefits from shifting to flexible schedules,” reported SHRM. “Ranging from making it easier to attract talent to increasing employee productivity, loyalty, and retention.” Similarly, a survey by LinkedIn Talent Solutions found 94 percent of employers reporting the same or higher productivity than with traditional 9-to-5 teams. Because flexible schedules remove stress around doctor appointments, therapy, or support group attendance, employees are better able to manage mental health disabilities and conditions—or even eliminate some of them.

Rest Area/Quiet Space

According to Mental Health America, “Employees should have access to safe, calm, and private space(s) at their company.” Brain science bears this out. Typical office distractions—pinging email and chat messages, office machinery, coworker discussion at volume, and multi-tasking—drench the brain in cortisol and adrenaline. In the short term, these chemicals fuel us through short periods of stress. However, long term, they can deplete the body of calming hormones like serotonin and dopamine—affecting everything from cognition to heart rhythm, breathing, sleep, and pain levels. Some companies are even incorporating meditation in their workplaces—an initiative supported by several studies, including a comprehensive 2016 analysis by Case Western Reserve University. Their research found that “injecting a corporate culture of mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together.” Google, Aetna, Mayo Clinic, and the United States Marine Corps, among others, are already doing this.

Identifying and Reducing Triggers

For conditions such as anxiety, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, common triggers include excessive noise, pulsing light, crowded spaces, and spaces without easy exits. An individual recovering from PTSD, for example, may experience traumatic memories that involved being trapped. Similarly, an employee with panic disorder may be triggered in large groups. While some workspaces—a warehouse floor, for example—may not allow for trigger mitigation, many do. Simply allowing an employee to move to a different workstation could be enough to do the trick. In meetings, an individual may be allowed to sit near the exit, while another might have a schedule that places them at work when the office is less crowded. Such accommodations are easily implemented and cost nothing.

On-Site Support Person

Employees who live with mental health challenges tend to feel isolated in the workplace, so the presence of even one empathetic person can make all the difference. Many companies have begun implementing mental-health-focused ERGs, groups that encourage interpersonal connection through the safe sharing of personal stories. Similarly, some organizations have begun to implement mental health “buddy” or “peer” programs. In short, a mental health peer is an individual who has lived experience with a mental health condition. Identified workplace peers (or buddies) typically undergo training—including active listening, ethics, and boundary establishing—equipping them to be supportive in a peer capacity, rather than a clinical one. Multiple studies reveal that this strategy works. Employees engaged in a workplace peer support initiative experienced enhanced mental well-being, heightened job contentment, and even elevated productivity levels. 

Don’t Overlook One in Four Potential Employees

One in four adults in the United States lives with a diagnoseable mental health condition. They might be your grocer, accountant, custodian, physician, or CEO. They could be the next candidate you interview—the one who is a perfect fit but has a standing appointment on Wednesday afternoons. “The reality is that workers with mental illnesses are no different than your average employee,” reports Health Partners, citing that employers who hire people with mental illness say that they are as productive, punctual, dependable, and motivated as those who do not have a mental health condition. This finding is consistent with the data when it comes to employees with disabilities at large. In fact, a study by analyst firm Accenture found that companies that actively recruit and support people with disabilities, including mental health conditions, earn six times more revenue, 2.6 times more net income, and two times more economic profit than companies that don’t.

As labor shortages persist across industries, it’s imperative for employers to embrace the workability of one in four adults in the United States who live with a mental disability. PRIDE Industries has decades of experience helping companies leverage the talents and business advantages of employing people with mental health and other disabilities. This includes a broad range of expertise in identifying and incorporating accommodations that significantly enhance overall success.

Let Us Help You Build an Inclusive Labor Force

Inclusive workforces, including those that employ people with disabilities, boast 35 percent greater productivity. PRIDE Industries has helped hundreds of companies to make their teams more inclusive, helping recruit, hire, train, and support this reliable talent pool—free of charge to employers.
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