9 Mental Health Questions for Employee Engagement Surveys

Employee feedback is essential to creating and maintaining a work environment that supports mental health.

By including mental health questions in employee engagement surveys, employers not only demonstrate a clear organizational commitment to employee well-being, but also gain insights that will help them improve the mental health support they provide.

Clarify the objectives

Start your employee engagement survey revamp by clarifying what you’re trying to achieve by measuring mental health, said London-based independent consultant Amy McKeown, who trains HR professionals to support mental health in the workplace. work

Ask some fundamental questions before you start, she advises: What are we trying to do? Are we looking to get a snapshot of employee mental health or measure what people know about the mental health benefits, resources, policies and processes available? Why are we doing what we were doing and how do we measure it?

McKeown works with large organizations in the UK, many of which went out and bought any number of random mental health resources during the pandemic.

And yet not much has changed for them, he says: Mental health absenteeism, for example, remains high. Acquiring benefits or applications without having a clear strategic framework for how they will actually be used and measured doesn’t help anyone but marketers.

9 questions you should ask about mental health

Once you’ve defined your goals, think carefully about what you’ll ask in employee engagement surveys. Determine what your organization will do with the feedback. Experts chimed in with important questions to ask and answer.

You can and should customize each of these recommended questions to align with your organization’s needs:

1. How comfortable are you talking about your mental health with your manager, HR and colleagues?

Creating a work environment where people feel comfortable coming forward and discussing their mental health issues is critical to any improvement. Much work remains to be done to destigmatize mental health in the workplace, with 8 in 10 workers reporting that shame and stigma prevent them from seeking treatment, according to health care provider Kaiser Permanente.

Conversations are the most common way people seek support for their mental health and are typically how organizations learn about them, said Bernie Wong, knowledge manager and director of the Workplace Mental Health Consultancy Mind Share Partners. The answers to this question help you understand the prevalence of stigma, how people feel about coming forward, and who people go to for support.

2. Do you understand what resources are available to support your mental health?

Offering benefits doesn’t mean people will know about them or use them. For example, a Mind Share Partners Report on Mental Health at Work found that only 50 percent of employees knew the right procedure to get support for their mental health.

The mental health resources you offer could cover a wide range of benefits, therapy, self-care tools and more, Wong said. But your people may not even be aware of it. Educating people about available resources is a key step in helping them become empowered to care for themselves.

3. How easy is it to access your mental health benefits?

The more friction and complications in accessing benefits, said Mark DeFee, a workplace wellness consultant, the less likely they will be used.

Organizations can work both internally and with their suppliers to streamline the process of accessing benefits. Wong recommended developing a tool, perhaps a portal on your website, that lays out all of your mental health resources in one easy-to-navigate place.

4. Have you used mental health benefits or taken time off for mental health issues?

A Gallup report found that workers with fair or poor mental health take nearly 12 days of unplanned absences annually, compared to 2.5 days for other workers. If someone took a mental health day, for example, were they transparent with their manager/HR about their reasons?

5. Have you ever endorsed mental health benefits for a co-worker?

That question asks how satisfied employees are with their mental health benefits, without asking them directly, DeFee said. If an employee has ever recommended a mental health benefit to a co-worker, they clearly believe there is value in it and feel comfortable recommending it to someone else as well.

6. How would you describe the work culture here when it comes to supporting mental health?

Use the answers to this question to map out the places where stress and burnout do the most damage to people’s mental health.

There are so many factors involved with burnout, McKeown said, and when you ask that question, you can get simplistic answers about heavy workloads and a lack of work-life balance.

Wong offered a potential solution: When asking this question, consider breaking down work culture into the core determinants of burnout, which are workload, job equity, role clarity, autonomy, flexibility, if people feel rewarded for their work, as well as community and belonging.

Employers have historically offered individual-centered mental health support (through benefits and wellness apps). But the biggest driver of mental health concerns is workplace culture, Wong said, where we’ve unfortunately seen the least change.

7. To what extent do you think our leadership prioritizes mental health in the workplace?

Support for mental health should come from managers and co-workers, including senior managers. When leaders talk about mental health, but their behaviors don’t align with their words, people notice and don’t feel supported.

Leaders play a critical role in establishing workplace culture, Wong said, in concrete ways around policies, but also through setting norms around work. A new hire, for example, can make a rough guess about what a reasonable amount of work is each day by observing their manager, peers, and management team.

8. Have you experienced any stigma related to mental health in the workplace?

We know the biggest barrier to accessing mental health care is social stigma, DeFee said, so it’s important to ask about how peers have responded to someone’s mental health concerns. Has someone not taken your concerns seriously? Or have they supported you and encouraged you to seek help? Those moments matter.

9. How can we improve communication around mental health in the organization?

How you communicate about mental health can matter as much as what you communicate.

Some employees may want shorter written communications, while others may want a video, DeFee said. If you put a mental health poster in the break room, for example, some employees may not want to be seen looking at them.

Turning vision into action

When you start asking questions about mental health, employees will expect you to do something about their feedback. Making positive changes will not only improve mental health outcomes, but also create momentum for increased survey participation.

Joseph Romsey is a freelance writer in Boston.

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