How employers can support parents by reducing the mental load

Have you ever stopped to think about whether your employees are carrying the mental load?


The mental load that employees carry can impact so much, whether that’s their job satisfaction, productivity, or their overall well-being. In fact, the mental load can have a detrimental impact on your employees’ mental health. As an employer, it’s important to support the people working for you to balance the demands of their jobs and other things they may have going on in their lives. 

Employers can play a crucial role in reducing the mental load and taking a proactive approach to support. But – apart from the usual EAPs – what does that look like in reality?

In this article we’re going to give you some ideas about how you can help reduce the mental load for your employees.


Firstly, what is the mental load?


Most of us have heard of the “mental load” of motherhood. So just in case you’ve never heard of “mental load” in the context of the workplace we thought we’d explain. 


The mental load in the workplace is caused by psychological pressure and it’s believed to be one of the main causes of stress at work. 


This mental load is like an invisible list in your head. Tasks aren’t always obvious and are often hidden in plain sight. It can look like, having to offer praise or maintain the ego and/or well-being of a colleague or manager; remembering colleagues’ birthdays and organising their workplace cake/party (often a task given automatically to women by the way!); project managing and orchestrating activities across a multi-functional team while also anticipating and dealing with potential problems…


There’s a build up and, if not supported, an employee might start to struggle.


The impact of the mental load in the workplace


When it comes to the mental load, there are several impacts seen in the workplace. 


There’s usually a decrease in work-related performance, where an employee becomes less effective in their role. Sometimes this looks like carelessness, whether that’s organising and managing daily tasks or repeatedly making mistakes. 


Often there are physical signs of mental load taking its toll, such as weight loss or exhaustion, perhaps a decrease in personal hygiene. This is also sometimes paired up with instability in their mood. Perhaps they’ve become more irritable or over-sensitive to constructive feedback. 


These are all signs of the mental load getting too much, meaning they’re effectively in a state of burnout. 


How can employers help?


Employers can help with the mental load in a number of ways. But the key to supporting employees is by taking a proactive and preventative approach. It’s not enough to rely on the team member to ask for help or for you to wait until you see all of the above signs of burnout. 


Companies need to be proactive in offering help and sharing the load. 


Why it’s important to check in. 


Mental health issues often make people feel isolated. If one of your team is struggling, they might disconnect from work. This is why it’s important to check in with staff to see how they’re getting on.


We often hear employers say, “but we have EAPs in place”. In reality, we know that these are for the people who have hit rock bottom. With only 5% of UK employees using employee assistance programs, we can tell you that EAPs are great as a safety net, but not-so-great at actually helping employees. 


We recommend that employers start offering regular check-ins. Preventative wellbeing check in’s are more effective than reactive EAPs.


Check-ins mean that employees aren’t having to jump through hoops to access the support they need, or wait for someone to get back to them before anything happens. It’s a proactive approach that allows them to ask a question, or raise a concern or worry before the burden gets too much.


Ensuring that line managers are carrying out regular well being check-ins is one way of keeping tabs on who’s starting to struggle and needs support. That way you can take action before they begin to burn out. 


By providing a comprehensive and holistic approach to your wellbeing strategy, instead of just relying on an EAP approach, you’re enhancing motivation, performance and increasing a positive company culture, which means you’ll be attracting and retaining strong talent. 



Other practical ideas for reducing the mental load


You can offer flexible work arrangements to allow employees to better manage their work-life balance. Provide adequate paid time off, including paid sick leave and holiday, which would allow them to recharge and avoid burnout, and give their best on returning to work.


By offering mental health support, like check-ins, counselling services and therapy, as well as the standard more reactive employee assistance programs (EAPs), companies can help employees manage stress better and therefore maintain their well-being.


It’s essential that managers ensure that employee workloads are actually manageable. Providing employees with the resources and support they need to complete their tasks effectively is a key part of this.


Communication is key!


We recommend that as well as regular well-being check-ins, you foster open and transparent communication, keeping employees informed about any upcoming changes and giving them the support they need to do their jobs well. 


And when they’re doing their roles to the best of their ability, it’s important that you recognize and appreciate employees for their contributions to your company! This boosts morale in the workplace and reduces individual stress because they feel valued and competent.


As well as all the above, you can encourage employees to prioritise their well-being and work-life balance by providing opportunities for relaxation, such as on-site yoga classes or meditation sessions. You can also encourage open conversations about mental health and break the stigma.


Overall, we hope you can take away some of these tips and start reducing the mental load of your employees so you can create a more positive and productive work environment. At the end of the day, this will benefit both your organisation and your employees.

We're interested in learning about your experience of taking paternity and shared parental leave.

We’d love to hear your views on this topic, so we have created a survey to hear about your experience

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