Entries with tag business advice .

The Right Way to Handle Employees' Mental Health Issues

October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day created with the objective of raising awareness and support for mental health issues.  In light of that, we decided that this is the perfect time to discuss the best way to handle mental illness in the workplace.

Unfortunately, there's often a stigma associated with mental illness.  As a result, many employers fail to develop a comprehensive plan for addressing the issue.  However, because mental health problems are linked to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher health care costs, it's important for employers to take this issue seriously.

To that end, here are some suggestions for dealing with mental health issues in the workplace:

  • Educate.  Teach employees about signs and symptoms of mental illness.  People tend to assume that mental illness is rare or unusual, when in fact, it's actually pretty common.  Approximately 1 in 5 Americans have a diagnosable mental illness.  The better educated employees are about mental illness, the more likely they'll be able to recognize—and respond appropriately—to mental health issues in the workplace.

  • Invest.  If possible, offer mental health benefits to employees.  Although this may initially sound cost-prohibitive, mental health and substance abuse issues may be more costly not to treat.  According to the Center for Prevention and Health, these issues cost employers between $79 and $105 billion each year.

  • Encourage.  Some corporate cultures foster “workplace warrior” attitudes where employees are expected to regularly put long hours in, be available around the clock, and are lauded for never taking vacation.  The stress and long hours associated with this type of corporate culture only exacerbates mental health problems.

    Rather than praising your employees for their long hours, promote work-life balance by: developing reasonable expectations for email responses; insisting employees take vacation; and encouraging employees not to put in long hours on a regular basis.

5 Ways to Socialize When You Work From Home

Working from home definitely has its benefits...you can wear your PJs all day, venture out to a matinee, and set your own hours.  However, working from home offers few opportunities for human interaction—unless you make a deliberate effort to socialize, you can go days without talking to anyone.  Fortunately, we've got some pointers to make working from home more social:

  1. Go to Meetups.  Meetup.com connects people with similar interests.  Simply set up an account, look for groups that interest you, then join them.  Having said that, it isn't enough just to join.  When your meetups schedule social events, attend them.  You can meet plenty of people and over time, you'll start to recognize attendees and begin forming friendships with them.

  2. Create or Attend a Jelly.  A jelly is a work event that takes place in someone's home or a coffee shop.  It gives freelancers and remote workers the opportunity to work alongside others in a welcoming environment.  To look for jellies in your area, click here.

  3. Join a Sports Teams.  A team is an excellent way to form close connections.  Most sports teams meet once or twice a week, giving people the chance to socialize while having “fit fun.”  In just one season, you'll be surprised at how quickly you've come to view your teammates as friends.

  4. Schedule Lunches and Coffee Dates.  A little planning can go a long way toward helping you socialize.  Aim to get at least 2 lunches or coffee dates on your calendar each week.  These events will give you something to look forward to and prevent you from becoming too isolated.

  5. Go to a Religious Service and/or Volunteer.  A place of worship is a great way to meet local people in your area, and most religions are especially welcoming of newcomers.  If religion isn't your thing, consider volunteering.  As with places of worship, most volunteer organizations love new people and they're happy to have additional help.

4 Ways to Create a Culture of Intrapreneurship

Lately, you may have heard the relatively new term, intrapreneur.  If you're unfamiliar with the concept, the word defines a person within an organization who uses skills traditionally associated with entrepreneurship—like innovation and problem-solving—and applies them at the company they work for.

Essentially, it's a way for employees to engage in entrepreneurial-like behavior while avoiding the risk that entrepreneurs typically experience.  As you might imagine, companies love having this type of innovator on board at their organizations.  If you'd like to foster a culture of intrapreneurship at your company, you can do so by:

  1. Rewarding Proactive Behavior.  Employees are far more likely to be proactive problem solvers if they know that behavior is valued in their organization.  If you have layers of bureaucracy in place that makes proactive behavior all but impossible, we encourage you to start thinking of innovative ways to change that.

  2. Making Room for Creativity.  Firms that foster intrapreneurship tend to allow their employees greater flexibility.  For example, at 3M and Google, employees are allowed to spend 20% of their working hours pursuing personal projects related to the business.  In fact, these personal projects led to the creation of Post-It notes and Gmail.

  3. Accepting Micro-Failures.  In an innovative environment, there will be times that failures occur.  However, rather than berating employees for making mistakes, aim for an understanding attitude.  By accepting that failure is an occasional byproduct of risk, you create a culture where employees are more comfortable implementing new ideas.

  4. Acting on Ideas.  Sitting around and coming up with great ideas can be an enjoyable pasttime.  However, it's important to realize that if you're a company that truly wants to foster intrapreneurship, it's not just enough to devise useful ideas.  At some point, you need to act on them.  To do this, growth strategist Matthew Toren at business.com suggests you develop a structure to move ideas from the generation stage all the way to commercial realization. 

Could Your Company Benefit from a Sleep Policy?

Do you work at an office where people who leave by 5:30 are considered wimps?  Is a 60-80 hour work week the norm at your company?  Are you surrounded by highly caffeinated “zombies” who ingest tons of coffee just to keep themselves upright at work?  If you've answered yes to any of these questions, there's a high likelihood that sleep deprivation is the norm at your place of employment.  According to Harvard Business Review, that's bad for a number of reasons.

As HBR reports in Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer, there are many ways our cognitive skills suffer from a lack of sleep including: slower reaction times, impeded judgment, interference with problem-solving, and grogginess.

While these impacts may not seem like a big deal, Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, the Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that sleep deprivation is not just an individual health hazard, it's a public one.  For instance, when his research team studied sleep-deprived hospital interns, they found that interns' “odds of stabbing themselves with a scalpel or needle increased 61%, their risk of crashing a motor vehicle increased 168%, and their risk of a near miss increased 460%.”

Czeisler suggests that rather than viewing sleep deprivation with machismo, that instead individuals—and corporations—take it seriously.  In fact, he suggests that businesses develop a sleep policy which would look something like this:

  • Limit Daily Work.  Ideally, employees would work no more than 12 hours a day and definitely never more than 16 hours a day.

  • Limit Weekly Work.  Czeisler suggests that employees shouldn't be scheduled to work more than 60 hours a week and they should be prevented from working beyond 80.

  • Give Adequate Days Off.  The more nights in a row we don't get enough sleep, the more sleep we require to get caught up.  To prevent this type of growing sleep deprivation, Czeisler says that ideally, employees shouldn't be scheduled more than 4-5 days in a row, and they should never be scheduled to work more than 6 consecutive days.

5 Smart Strategies to Prevent Burnout

With the ability to respond to emails and texts around the clock, it's now easier than ever for our work lives to consume our personal lives.  When this occurs, we often pay a price—burnout.  To avoid experiencing this common condition, we've identified some strategies to prevent burnout:

  1. Exercise.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exercise is a fantastic way to prevent burnout.  After studying individuals who engaged in 4 weeks of regular exercise, the NIH reported, “Cardiovascular exercise was found to increase well-being and decrease psychological distress, perceived stress, and emotional exhaustion.  Resistance training was noticeably effective in increasing well-being and personal accomplishment and to reduce perceived stress.”

  2. Say “No” More Often.  Burnout and perfectionism are closely linked.  For that reason, it's important for perfectionists to realize that they don't need to do everything.  Become more comfortable saying “no” to time-consuming, undesirable requests.

  3. Meditate.  The higher up the corporate ladder you are, the more likely it is you have a stressful job that comes with a high risk of burnout.  To avoid that scenario, take a page from these CEOs' playbooks and practice meditating.  Doing so will help you feel more balanced and centered.

  4. Schedule Time for Yourself.  The only person who can create time in your busy schedule for relaxation is YOU.  Rather than writing personal time off as unimportant, give yourself a full day each week to relax and recharge.  Taking this time for yourself will give your mood a boost, making it easier for you to avoid burnout.

  5. Ask for Help.  Many people fear asking for help.  They worry that if they do so, they risk looking weak or incompetent.  However, consider this a case where your worst fears are likely to be unfounded.  Typically when someone approaches us for help, we're happy to offer it and don't think poorly of the requester.  Assume that other people are viewing you with a similarly generous spirit.