employee and manager talking

Employee Struggling with Mental Health:

How to Help

By Kimberly Kafafian


You’ve picked up on the signs: showing up late to work, looking tired, missing deadlines, difficulty managing multiple tasks, easily frustrated, unable to accept feedback. Everything indicates that the employee may be struggling mentally and needs support. You want to help, but are unsure of what you should do. You aren’t alone. With mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, and stress so common, chances are managers everywhere have a worker who is struggling. As an HR professional, I can tell you that addressing mental health issues in the workplace can be very complex. They need to be carefully navigated, but there are some things you can do to help.

Arrange for a Meeting

Meet with the employee in a quiet space where you can ensure your discussion will be discreet. I recommend starting by asking how they are doing. This open-ended, non-judgmental question allows the employee to explain in their own words what they are going through and the support they may need. If the employee doesn’t really open up, share your observations and express your concern. Do not be accusatory or try to diagnose, but rather keep the focus of the discussion on work performance as is required by law. You don’t have a right to know their private struggles. Follow the employee’s lead. If they admit they are struggling, work with them to adjust their responsibilities and tasks as needed. Let them know that they are valued and that you will provide the tools and/or the time they need to recuperate. If they deny any issues, advise that they can come to you at any time if they find they need help, and reassure them that what they say is confidential. 

Practice Empathy and Show Compassion

Actively listen to what the employee is saying. Let them know you understand, and if appropriate, relate to their struggles on a personal level. Encourage them to seek support, and let them know you are there to help them. 

Make Necessary Accommodations

Develop an action plan that makes adjustments for how the employee performs their role. Changes can include:

  • Where and when the employee works
  • Additional break times
  • Quiet spaces to decompress
  • Relaxed absence rules
  • Providing leave at short notice
  • Reallocating tasks
  • Modifying job duties
  • More frequent monitoring of workload
  • Extra training or coaching
  • Assigning a mentor

Know Your Legal Duties

Once you are aware of a health disability, you have certain duties to consider when making accommodations and adjustments. It’s important to speak to your HR team or legal counsel to ensure that you are following the law and providing your employee with any mandated support beyond what you are already doing.

A manager’s support and compassion can make all the difference. If you notice something off about your employee, take the time to check in with them.

yoga activity in the workplace

Mental Health Activities in the Workplace

By Kimberly Kafafian


With January being Mental Wellness Month, it’s the perfect time to promote employee wellbeing with activities designed to reduce stress and foster a healthy mindset. While I encourage you to offer such activities throughout the year, highlighting them during this month is a great way to let your workforce know that you care about their mental health, which goes a long way in boosting morale and engagement. 

Choosing the Right Activities for Your Workers

There are many types of mental health boosting activities. In order to resonate with your workforce, it’s important to take the time and choose the activities that best suit it. When devising mental health strategies, I like to incorporate a variety of activities in order to connect with, and benefit, all types of personalities. For example, while some workers may appreciate a yoga session, others would much more prefer a book club or a chair massage. The goal is to help employees prioritize mental health so they can recharge and refresh, so you want to offer an activity for everyone. 

Mental Health Activities for In-Person and Remote Teams 

Yoga Class

Schedule a beginner yoga class that encourages employees to breathe and stretch, reducing tension and fatigue and improving mental clarity and productivity. It’s OK if you don’t have a large space to hold the class, many yoga studios can teach desk classes.

Mindfulness Session

Whether an in-person workshop or a virtual lunch and learn for remote workers, a guided mindfulness session can bring calm, boost creativity, and teach stress resilience.  

Walking Club

Walking provides a host of health benefits from improving mood and increasing energy to reducing stress levels. Creating a club will encourage employees to get outdoors and join in the camaraderie. 

Book Club

Reading is a great way to escape from the daily stressors and relax. In fact, it’s been shown to reduce stress by up to 68%. Pick a location, schedule a date and time, have employees vote on book selections, order the books, and get started. Remote workers can join in virtually.

Mental Health Workshops

Bring in guests who will talk about mental health and stress management topics. Experts are best equipped to provide strategies and share resources for meeting life’s challenges and improving work-life balance.  

Team Building Activities

Simply taking a break from daily tasks is a stress buster. Organize team building activities such as a game, virtual happy hour, cooking class, or volunteering for a local organization.

Art Classes

Immersing oneself in art is a great mood booster. Organize a drawing or painting class for artists of all levels. You can hold it during work hours or opt for an after hours sip and create.

Gratitude Challenge

Expressing gratitude can transform your mindset. Set up a gratitude challenge where workers journal three things they are grateful for each day.

The above are just some examples of mental health boosting activities you can do in the workplace. I encourage you to create activities in which your workforce will want to participate. Reach out to management teams for their suggestions. Remember, the goal is to incorporate activities that will connect with all types of personalities.

person sitting on top of a mountain

PTO for Mental Health:

How to Encourage Employees to Use It

By Kimberly Kafafian


Stress in the workplace is nothing new, but until the pandemic, employee mental health was a topic rarely discussed or addressed. Now, thank goodness, it’s at the forefront of the employee experience – as it should be. A recent American Psychological Association survey found that 71% of workers believe their employer is more concerned about employee mental health now than in the past. With 81% of workers wanting to align themselves with companies that support their mental health, organizations that aren’t focusing on cultivating a mentally healthy workplace need to make it a priority. If this statistic isn’t enough to spur action, companies should take note that doing so can also benefit the organization overall, as stress can cause productivity, creativity, and performance to dip.

One way of supporting your workers’ mental wellbeing is to encourage them to utilize PTO as a way to decompress. HR teams can take the lead here. I work hand-in-hand with leadership on developing strategies promoting the importance of mental health days. Below are some of the steps I recommend for pushing employees to take their PTO to recharge and refresh.

Promoting PTO for Mental Health 

Remove the stigma, fear, and guilt associated with using PTO for non-vacation purposes by creating a culture where employees are encouraged to take time off for self-care or to spend with their families.

Build the Importance of Taking PTO into Communications

In newsletters, email blasts, webinars, town halls, and staff meetings remind workers to utilize their allotted time off to rest and renew. Share information on the benefits of enjoying time away from the workplace, along with fun snippets of what co-workers are doing with their PTO to inspire others to follow suit.

Have Management Lead by Example

One of the best ways to encourage employees to utilize their PTO is by having management take time off themselves. This demonstrates that you understand the importance of downtime and that your team will not be judged for taking time away from work.

Create a Well-Defined PTO Policy

In addition to outlining how many days off are allowed, you should also:

  • Stress that there is no requirement to say why need day off
  • Formalize that there is no employer contact during PTO – the whole point of time off is to take a break from work
  • Define PTO as more than vacation days so workers feel free to use them as they need them
  • Highlight that using PTO for mental health days is welcomed

Employees need time to recharge and refresh. It is up to management to encourage them to take time off – for the sake of their team’s mental health and the financial health of the company.

happy employees in the workplace

Benefits of Good Mental Health in the Workplace

By Kimberly Kafafian


The state of an employee’s mental health can impact many aspects of an organization, from productivity and collaboration, to safety and turnover. Simply put, the mental health of a workforce plays a key role in a business’s bottom line. So placing mental wellbeing at the heart of workplace policies is just good business. As U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD noted, a mentally healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organizations

Throughout my career, I have noticed first-hand the benefits businesses reap when they develop strategies and policies with a mental health focus. If you’re still on the fence about how much energy to put in this area, hopefully, the list below will sway you to make mental health initiatives a priority. 

The Rewards of Prioritizing Employee Mental Health

Improved Productivity and Innovation

Mentally healthy workers tend to be more productive, communicative, and creative. Good decision-making, effective collaboration, and innovative thinking requires the ability to focus. Someone who is burned out or struggling with a mental health challenge is more likely to be distracted and withdrawn, which can result in lackluster contributions, missed deadlines, poor communication or miscommunication, mistakes, and lower performance – all of which impact profits. 

Lower Turnover

Today’s workers want a better work-life balance. Since the pandemic, employees are placing a greater emphasis on working for companies that care about their mental health. Employees who don’t feel consistent mental health support from their employer are 5.5 times more likely to have plans to quit their job. By demonstrating your commitment to workplace mental health, you are boosting retention rates.

Decreased Risks & Liabilities

When businesses invest in mental health, they experience lower absenteeism, better engagement, and higher performance. This, in turn, reduces errors and safety violations related to inattention or failing to put full effort into tasks, which decreases risks and legal exposure.

Reduced Costs

According to a Gallup survey, poor worker mental health costs the US $48 billion per year. This is attributed to collective missed days. The number does not distinctly reflect decreases in productivity and innovation, increases in turnover, or greater liabilities that result from poor workplace mental health. Effective mental health initiatives help curb such losses.

Tips for Supporting Workplace Mental Health

  • Be Flexible – Allow employees to work flexible hours, work from home, or follow a hybrid working schedule.
  • Provide for Routine Check-Ins – Require leaders to routinely meet with team members to gauge how they are handling work loads, if assistance is needed, whether feeling overwhelmed, etc.
  • Offer Mental Health Benefits – Be sure that your benefits packages include accessibility to robust mental health services.
  • Encourage Utilizing PTO – Promote mental wellbeing by pushing employees to take PTO to recharge and refresh

By centering workplace policies around mental health, businesses can boost employee potential and the bottom line.

employee at desk with holiday decoration

Keeping Employees Engaged During the Holidays

By Kimberly Kafafian


While the holiday season is a festive time of year, it’s also when workforce productivity tends to take a dip. Between shopping, coordinating travel, and planning for gatherings with loved ones, employees’ minds may be on anything but business. Plus, the pressure to meet year-end goals can cause workers to burn out resulting in them checking out mentally. As an HR specialist, I’ve found that managers who make an effort to keep employees engaged during December see a higher level of overall performance in their teams. Here are some activities to help your employees stay focussed on the tasks at hand as the year comes to a close.

How to Boost Employee Engagement in December

Offer Extra Time Off

The holidays are hectic. Show employees you care by being flexible with PTO requests and offering time off to handle all those to-do lists. Employees may be hesitant to ask for personal time, so be proactive and encourage them to take the time they need. Providing this perk will help employees be more focused when they are at work.

Host a Holiday Celebration

Events outside the confines of the office let your employees know that you value more than just the bottom line. Plan a gathering that allows everyone to relax, unwind, and enjoy themselves with their colleagues. This will create a more festive atmosphere in the workplace overall. 

Acknowledge Achievements

It may sound simple, but an acknowledgement has a powerful effect. A hand-written note, phone call, or email expressing appreciation for a job well done can miraculously boost morale. For significant achievements, consider bonuses or other monetary awards, team lunches or dinners, and team activities. When you value your employees and show them that their work matters, you inspire them to be even more productive.

Encourage Self-Care

Although the holiday season is stressful and exhausting, people tend to put self-care on the back burner as there is just no time to fit it in. Organize activities to help fend off employee burnout, such as meditation exercises, chair massages, yoga classes, or breathing workshops. 

Set Reasonable Expectations

Now is not the time to focus on impossible goals. Be realistic and set more attainable aspirations so that employees stay motivated to achieve them.

Promote a Work-Life Balance

An overworked employee will not optimally perform. Encourage your workforce to take breaks, unplug at the end of the day, and prioritize their mental health.

Looking for help keeping your workforce engaged throughout the year? Schedule a free consultation.

bunch of matches with one burned out

How to Deal with End of the Year Burnout

By Kimberly Kafafian

If you’re living in a state of overwhelm during the month of December, you’re not alone. Although the holiday classic claims it’s the most wonderful time of the year, for many people it’s extremely stressful and anxiety-ridden. You’re juggling work duties, holiday to-do’s, normal responsibilities, end of year deadlines, and a jam-packed social calendar – there just isn’t enough time to tackle everything on your plate. All of the stressors can start to build up, leading to burnout – but you don’t have to let it overtake you. Here are some ways to help you deal with the end of the year chaos.

Tips for Tackling Burnout

Prioritize Projects

Assess your workload and organize the tasks based on importance. Figure out which items need to be completed immediately and those that can be pushed off until the new year. If you aren’t sure which projects are more critical, arrange for a meeting with your manager. And if you can delegate some of the work, do so – but just make sure you aren’t piling too much onto the person to whom you’re delegating.

Take Time Off

Sometimes you just need to refresh and recharge. Although last minute requests for a long vacation may not be approved, use as much of your PTO as you can. Decompressing outside of the workplace can help provide the calm that your body and mind are craving.

Focus on Self-Care

Just as you put everything else on your calendar, set aside time to care for yourself. Take frequent breaks, get enough sleep, and do things you enjoy. Make time to go for a walk or do some breathing exercises. All of this will help you to destress during this hectic time of year.

Set Work-Life Boundaries

Don’t let the line between work and life become blurred. Set boundaries to preserve your sanity. Stop checking email after hours and let work know you do not want to be contacted during your PTO unless it’s an emergency. If you work from home, take lunch breaks and close the office door after you’re done for the day. 

Ask for Help

If you’re experiencing burnout, it’s important to seek help. Ask your manager to adjust your workload or reassign tasks. Meet with HR to find out what kind of mental health benefits your company offers. Let your family and friends know what you are going through so they can offer their support.

paid time off in a search bar

The Difference Between Floating Holiday and PTO

By Kimberly Kafafian


As we enter the end of the year and many workers try to use, rather than lose, their paid time off (PTO), it’s the perfect time to address the difference between PTO and floating holidays. While both are forms of paid leave, it’s important to know the distinction between the two so you can build the right PTO policy for your organization. Below is a breakdown of both types of PTO, along with some FAQs.

What Is PTO?

PTO refers to all of the paid days off that employees can take from work, such as vacation, sick time, and personal days. Although the government does not require companies to provide PTO, this benefit has pretty much become standard among employers. The amount of PTO, however, varies as every organization sets their own PTO policies. 

There are two forms of PTO: fixed and unlimited. With fixed PTO, the employer sets the specific number of days, and the amount of PTO an employee receives is usually based on the length of time they have been with the company. For example, new hires may receive one week vacation, while a worker who has been with the company for ten years may receive four weeks.

With unlimited PTO, there is no cap on the amount of days you take off for vacation, sickness, or personal reasons. All days off come out of the same pot. In return for this generous benefit, workers are expected to keep up with their workload and not take off during busy times.

What Is a Floating Holiday?

A floating holiday is also referred to as an optional holiday. It’s a paid day off that each worker decides when to use. Providing floating holidays in addition to regular PTO is a great way to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace as it allows you to accommodate different religions and cultures. For example, a worker may wish to use their floating holiday for days that are not typically federal holidays, such as for Kwanzaa or Good Friday. Or maybe they want to tack the floating holiday onto another paid holiday, like July 4th, to extend their time off. Perhaps they just want to use it as a personal day. The company sets the rules for floating holidays, and can include requiring specific reasons for taking the holiday, as well as blackout dates.

PTO and Floating Holiday 

In the course of helping companies develop their PTO policies, I’m often asked the following questions:

Do I need to pay employees for floating holidays they don’t use?

Whether or not an employer needs to pay for accrued floating holidays varies by state. Check with your HR team or general counsel to find out what your state requires.

Does unused PTO and floating holiday pay rollover?

Floating holidays do not roll over from one year into the next. If you don’t use them, you lose them. Whether or not an employee can rollover unused PTO hinges on the company’s policy.

Can I deny a floating holiday request?

Yes, it is up to the employer to approve PTO requests, and that includes floating holidays.

pto on holiday ornaments

PTO and the Holidays: What You Need to Know

By Kimberly Kafafian


The holidays are a busy time of year. For employees, there’s the shopping, wrapping, prepping for family celebrations, baking, and more. It’s no wonder December is such a popular month for workers to want to utilize their paid time off (PTO). Companies have their own hectic schedules during this time, with end-of-year projects to complete and quotas to be met. While you may want to accommodate workers’ PTO requests, doing so could impede you from meeting deadlines and projections. It’s quite the balancing act to keep workers happy and engaged while protecting the bottom line. What’s a manager to do? Below are some tips I have found useful to help navigate the PTO-Holidays conundrum.

Tips for Dealing with PTO Requests During the Holidays


Be Flexible, But Realistic

While companies need to honor all PTO accrued, that doesn’t mean an employee can take off whichever day they want. The days an employee uses for PTO must be approved by the company. Employers have the right to deny PTO requests even if the employee saved up their days to the end of the year. That said, you don’t want disgruntled employees, so try to accommodate requests if you can. If you simply cannot give the day off, consider allowing the employee to work from home if possible as a compromise. And, if you know that the holidays are going to be a busy time for your company, advise your employees of this before the holiday season starts so they can plan accordingly and you don’t look like Mr. Scrooge. I advise my clients to assess workflow and upcoming needs over the summer months then create a PTO policy that will work for the company during the upcoming holiday season. When advising the employees about the policy, the employer should explain why it has been put in place, such as how having multiple employees out on the same days for PTO impacts the business.

Set Blackout Dates and Deadlines

If your business requires your employees to work during a specific period, one way to address PTO requests during those times is to set blackout dates, i.e., days when no PTO will be approved. These dates should be set forth in your formal PTO policy and not just thrust upon your workforce as the holidays approach. To fend off last minute asks, set a date by which all holiday PTO requests must be submitted.  

Be Fair with Approving Requests

It’s important to take efforts to be fair when it comes to PTO over the holidays. Some businesses opt for a first come, first served approach, but that isn’t always best as some workers tend to put requests in far in advance. To minimize complaints, your PTO policy should outline how many days an employee can use during the holidays, blackout dates, mandated rotations, and deadlines for requests.

Accommodate Religious Requests

If your business is open on a religious holiday, pay particular attention to those employees who are putting in a PTO request for religious reasons. It is just good practice to accommodate such requests, plus, if you don’t approve the PTO you will need to provide a good reason to justify your decision.

mental health spelled out in tiles

Mental Health Discrimination in the Workplace

Stopping the Stigma and Increasing Support

By Kimberly Kafafian


If there was one good thing to come out of COVID, it was how it shone a light on mental health at work. Stress, fear, and anxiety pervaded our world. There is an epidemic of loneliness and sadness. The height of COVID served as the wake up call we needed to pay more attention to well being and how we can support it. While it did become a hot topic, especially in my world, I had hoped it would stem a much needed change in how mental health is viewed in the workplace. And though there has been some movement, there is room for more.

Recognizing how our workplaces play a significant role in our lives, in October of 2022, the U.S. Surgeon General released the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being. The insightful 30-page resource provides a strong foundation for how organizations can build workplaces that are the engines of well being, and I encourage all leaders to refer to it as they create strategies to strengthen their own mental health initiatives.

Although the framework’s release is encouraging, and many organizations have recognized the need to do more to support their workers’ mental health in the afterlight of the pandemic, the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Work in America Survey indicates employers are not doing enough.

55% of the workers surveyed either strongly (21%) or somewhat (34%) agreed that their employer thinks their workplace environment is significantly mentally healthier than it actually is, and 43% said they were worried that telling their employer about a mental health condition would have a negative impact on them at work. The fear of discrimination is real and must be addressed.

The survey also indicates that workplace stress is still pervasive, with 77% of workers saying that they experienced work-related stress in the last month, and 57% reporting experiencing negative impacts of that stress that are sometimes related to burnout, including:

  • Emotional exhaustion (31%)
  • Not motivated to do their very best (26%)
  • Desire to keep to yourself (25%)
  • Desire to quit (23%)
  • Decreased productivity (20%)
  • Irritability or anger with coworkers and customers (19%)
  • Feeling ineffective (18%)

The Importance of a Mentally Healthy Workforce

Mental health conditions are not just damaging to employees, they also harm the organization. Such untreated conditions cost American companies billions of dollars every year. For example, untreated depression can cost $9,000+ per employee, per year in absenteeism and lost productivity. Mental health conditions are also tied to physical ailments, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which also result in lost work days and increased insurance costs.

Workplace stigma around mental health prevents many employees from seeking the help of co-workers or managers. They don’t want to be seen as lazy, unproductive, weak, or worse, be discriminated against. This can lead to decreased productivity and compound any mental health issues, leading to an endless cycle, as well as increased turnover.

How to Stop the Stigma and Increase Support

Create a Culture that Encourages Open Communication

Let employees know that you value their mental health and are taking steps to proactively support it. Devise initiatives that focus on the importance of well being and changing minds/behaviors around the stigma of mental health.

Offer Mental Health Resources

In addition to mental health benefits (according to the APA survey only 43% of employers do so), you can offer counseling services and support groups. Promote a better work-life balance with flexible work schedules and more paid time off.

Train Leadership

Teach managers and supervisors how to recognize signs of mental health issues, provide support, and direct employees to resources.

Develop Mental Health Policies

Outline how you focus on mental health in your workplace, support employees struggling with mental health challenges, and address mental health discrimination. It is important to note that the EEOC is coming down on companies who are discriminating against workers because they have a mental health condition

A mentally healthy workplace can help reduce absenteeism, bolster productivity, and increase retention, as well as attract top talent. With workplace mental health and the bottom line being so intertwined, employers need to make it a priority. The stigma and discrimination around mental health must end.

job candidates sitting on chairs waiting to be interviewed

What Is a Great Candidate Experience?

By Nicole Martin


As both a staffing / recruiting specialist and a career coach, I have a bird’s eye view of the candidate experience – and boy is it enlightening. Some of the application stories I hear from my career transition clients are incredibly frustrating, but they do offer valuable learning experiences that I can share with my corporate clients. A bad candidate experience can devastate hiring initiatives. I’m able to use the insights I glean from my job seeking clients to improve recruiting processes, bolstering the chances of my corporate clients finding and bringing on board the ideal candidate they are seeking. If you want to gain a competitive advantage when it comes to hiring, this post is for you.

What Exactly Does the Candidate Experience Mean?

The candidate experience refers to how job searchers perceive a company’s hiring process – from the job description to the interview to the communications to the hiring to the onboarding. This is your opportunity to demonstrate why candidates should work at your company.

Why the Candidate Experience Matters

A positive candidate experience can attract and help you hire the right candidate. On the other hand, a poor experience (which can be the result of anything from a too complicated application to an overly long decision process to poor follow up communication) can keep you from landing the ideal person. A negative experience can also impact your brand’s reputation and cause a trickle effect. Candidates can share their frustrations with your hiring process online, not only scaring away other candidates from applying, but possibly also deterring customers to purchase from you again.

What Makes a Great Candidate Experience

Here are some tips to help you build a candidate experience that lets your brand shine.

Create a Robust Career Page

Think of this page as your elevator pitch. Make sure it highlights what makes your organization unique, what employees think about working there, and the benefits of being part of your team. Incorporate photos and videos to engage job searchers. Most importantly, make this page easy to navigate and find open positions. If you have a job search function, ensure it is not too complicated or confusing. 

Write Clear and Enticing Job Descriptions

Your job description is in reality an advertisement, so treat it that way. Highlight all the important info that will resonate with the right candidate: how your company is different and what you can offer. Also fully explain the job responsibilities, required qualifications, preferred qualifications, and salary/benefits – and don’t forget to make the description legally compliant.

Streamline the Application Process

I understand you want to gather as much information as possible up front to help you screen out unqualified applications, but don’t make your application so complicated and convoluted that it prevents applicants from completing it. Keep it simple: ask for contact information, a resume, and maybe a cover letter.

Prioritize Communication

Communicate with candidates during each step of the process. This includes sending confirmation of receipt of the application, scheduling the interview, providing information on what to expect during the interview, following up promptly after an interview, providing timely description of next steps, and offer/notification of moving in another direction.

Prepare for the Interview

Make sure the person conducting the interview is prepared and knows how to elicit the right information about a candidate’s abilities and potential culture fit, gives the candidate their full attention, and develops a relationship with them. You want to make sure the candidate thinks the interview was fair and not a waste of their time.

Maintain Connection with Non-Hires

Stay in touch with candidates you passed over, keeping them in mind for future positions.

Looking to bolster your candidate experience? Schedule a free consultation.