Today’s generation faces exponential change unlike any era the workplace has ever seen. Millennials are now the single largest demographic in the workplace, comprising just over 50% of the workforce, and this group is the highest risk generation to experience mental illness.

As we know, mental illness is the number one cause for workplace sickness today, costing the global economy $1 Trillion US. Employers now understand that this issue is costing them dearly and it must be addressed through a workplace mental wellness program.

Where to start, and how to pick a mental wellness program to go with, is another matter altogether. The ecosystem of mental wellness programs for the modern workforce can be…overwhelming. So how to choose the right solution? How do you get started in this search?

We’ve broken it down into 8 easy steps to implement a mental wellness program in your workplace.

1. Discovery: Understand what’s driving the need

8 steps to implementing a mental wellness program

So you’ve recognized the need to help your employees with their mental wellness. What’s caused you to recognize this? Has it been brought on by a wave of short- and long-term disability claims? High turnover in your organization? Low morale? A feeling that productivity is slipping? A need to demonstrate to your people that you care?

Be specific with what you are looking to address, as it can help identify the right solution later in the process.

2. Identify what area of the ecosystem matches your needs

8 steps to implementing a mental wellness program in your workplace

Now that you’ve identified what’s driving the need for this program, navigating the complex ecosystem of mental wellness programs for the workplace is the next challenge. First, we need to understand the three domains of this ecosystem, which are: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

At the primary level, individuals are mostly healthy, but they’ve started to recognize certain triggers that that are somewhat alarming for their mental health and/or they could stand to benefit from training mental skills to aid their performance. This level of intervention effectively reaches, and is applicable to, the entire workforce. It is centered around preventative education, where intervention happens early in the process to help prevent people from reaching a state of mental illness.

At the secondary level, individuals are starting to experience some mental health symptoms, things like depression or anxiety symptoms, and a secondary mental wellness program would have screening mechanisms and peer support programming in place to identify these individuals and get them to care early.

For the tertiary level, individuals have experienced some sort of mental health issue and are incapacitated or away work. Programs in the tertiary space include Employee Assistance Programming (EAPs), in house psychological support in the workplace, or return to work programs.

Identifying what’s driving the need for your workplace will help you find a programming level that best suits your organization.

3. Research potential solution options

8 steps to implementing a mental wellness program in your workplace

Now that you know what level of programming fits your needs, it’s time to research potential partners. Understand that partners won’t self-identify as a primary, secondary, or tertiary program, so be specific in your search to what exactly you’re looking for “i.e preventative mental wellness education” or “employee assistance programs for mental health”. Most solutions today will be utilizing search engine optimization (SEO) to help you find them based on certain keywords, so be thorough in your search and take time to go through the options.

In this research phase, pay close attention to testimonials from partnered organizations of the solution(s) you’re looking at. If they’re not available, try reaching out to an organization they’ve worked with to get a sense of how the program was received.

4. Identify the preferred delivery form

8 steps to implementing a mental wellness program

Going back to the needs of your organization, this can depend on the size of your organization or the demographics of your industry, or even the costs associated with rollout.  Smaller workplaces may find in-person programming is better suited for them, while organizations with upwards of 100 employees may consider programming that is easier to scale across their workforce, even potentially considering delivering the program to multiple office locations or even different countries. For organizations that fall into the latter category, mobile programs can be a scalable and cost-effective delivery form. And, depending on the demographics of your workforce, mobile may in fact be the preferred delivery form with respect to how they consume media.

The point of any solid mental wellness program is for employees to learn and retain the key information at hand. Identifying the right delivery form is a key part of the evaluation process, so do not take this step for granted.

5. Request a product demo

Request a demo

You’ve done your due diligence in research, both in form of delivery and the level of program that suits your organization. Now it’s time to get your hands on the product and view it through the lens of your people. Most digital solutions will just send you a demo code to try the product. Try and get on the phone with them during your demo, however. Use it as an opportunity to ask questions about different product features and the use cases behind them. Extract as much information as possible, as this will only help you when you make your decision

6. Choose solution

how to choose your mental wellness program

Now it’s time to choose your solution. Depending on your organization this may involve a formal RFP process that involves procurement and a number of organizational stakeholders. However, that process can vary by organization and is not one we’ll dive into today.

7. Nominate internal champion

Nominating your internal champion

Perhaps this person is you, or perhaps a member of your team, but it’s critical to have someone who’s an internal champion at your organization to help with sell through of the program. A successful program needs people on both the partner side and your organization that enable turnkey implementation and ongoing engagement.

8. Onboard the program

How to onboard your mental wellness program

Now that you’ve got champions on both sides, it’s time to rollout the program to your organization. Onboarding of a program can be either onsite or online, through various forms for the latter. Common forms of online onboarding include live webinars or pre-recorded videos that give instruction on the program, how to use it, and high level conceptual meaning behind its training. The onboarding doesn’t stop with that initial presentation/video, however. Rolling out your internal marketing/communications package immediately following that session will keep your program top of mind as your employees get back to their usual routine. A successful onboarding session is critical to both effectively deliver the key program concepts to your staff AND keep them engaged during the duration of your program.

No matter the solution you go with, implementing a mental wellness program is increasingly important in today’s workplace climate. We hope these steps help clarify how you can get started!

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