How To Build A Work Culture That Prioritizes Mental Health

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How To Build A Work Culture That Prioritizes Mental Health
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We all know that the events of 2020 have ignited a mental health crisis that has never been seen before. In addition to life's regular stressors, our society has experienced the outbreak of covid-19, social isolations, the new normal of remote work, uncertainty over racial injustice, growing political discord, and even seasonal depression. Undoubtedly, it is imperative to talk about mental health at work and hold a culture of prevention centered around mental health. 

Mental health in the workplace was already a significant concern before the pandemic. There were many instances in which employees encountered threats to their mental health, but their employers did little to help. The end of the workday does not mean our worries about life will be put to rest. The societal stigma against discussing mental health issues at work and home means that most mental health concerns are ignored, and, therefore, made worse. With COVID-19 on the horizon, the threat to the workforce's well-being becomes all the more obvious. Despite the growing popularity of remote work in this post-pandemic era, full-time jobs inevitably shape people's habits. These habits contribute to or hinder their performance.

Companies have an important role in helping their employees develop good habits that benefit their mental and physical health. Organizations and team leaders need to understand that mental health education, advocacy, training, and support are essential for their workforce, not optional perks. Therefore, companies that provide mental health services to their employees contribute to a more productive workforce and a happier environment. To create a happy and productive workforce, an employer must create a workplace culture that focuses on employees in 2022. 

In this article we will talk about the key strategies companies should implement to help their employees deal with any potential mental health issues. First, let's look at what makes a thriving employee-first culture, its advantages and the negative effects of ignoring mental health.

Defining Employee-first Culture  

There is no doubt that a culture is an effective tool for promoting healthy habits, and many companies have used culture to encourage their employees to be more active and eat better. 

A clearly defined employee-first culture starts with one basic principle: employees come first. In an employee-first culture, employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns, feel their voice is heard, see growth opportunities, feel respected expressing their opinions, have a fair balance between work and life, believe in the organization's core values and are treated fairly. 

Advantages of Employee-first culture

In addition to keeping your employees happy, employee-first cultures have many other benefits. Today, startup companies and Fortune 500 companies alike are adopting this model due to the many tangible and intangible benefits it provides. Organizations with employees as their top priority will experience some general advantages such as: 

  1. Brings the best talents to the table

    Employer-first practices make organizations more attractive to young employees in a job market that is highly competitive. Job seekers regularly inquire about corporate culture throughout the recruiting process. Those companies that are known for their employee-first practices attract top talent.

  2. Encourages employee engagement

    Profitability increases when engagement improves. In terms of employee engagement, it refers to how employees feel about their jobs and company culture. When companies actively listen to employee feedback and act on it, employee engagement increases. The company that engages its employees tends to keep them happy, motivated, and committed to work, hence increasing business ROI.

    Read More: Implementing a modern service desk at the workplace can boost employee engagement to the next level.

  3. A higher retention rate

    Compensation packages and financial benefits aren't the most effective way to fix an employee retention problem. There is no easy way to find and retain good employees, regardless of employment rates. As per the report of American Express, replacing a mid-level manager can cost 150% of their salary. A replacement cost for an entry-level employee is 30 to 50%, and a replacement cost for a specialized employee can reach 400 %. To create a higher employee retention rate, organizations need to develop an environment that people are enthusiastic about and choosing to stay.

  4. Boosts team morale and promotes innovation

    The workplace culture of an organization can increase or decrease employee morale. When a company's culture is unclear or ineffective, employees suffer from increased stress and problems, negatively affecting results.

    Having high morale is more likely when people feel good about their work. Positivity in company culture can enable employees to feel part of something larger than themselves. Employees' morale may be higher in a company where employees are recognized, and company traditions are established. 

Employers' Mental Health: A New Workplace Priority

Employee mental health has a significant impact on both employees and their organizations. CDC's report on “Mental Health in the Workplace” states that mental health concerns are among the most burdensome problems in the US. The study also says that nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 and older reported having a mental illness in 2016

Mental illnesses like depression appear to be linked to higher unemployment and disability rates. There has also been research into the impact of depression on job performance and quality of work. Approximately 20% of physical tasks are affected by depression, and 35% by cognitive task performance. 

Taking care of employees' mental health at work should be the first step for every organization. Employer and HR teams can use various strategies to show support, ranging from managing stress to addressing work hours and building trust. Also, the goal of team managers is to encourage this type of support by providing employees with an array of different activities and resources. 

The World Health Organization estimates mental illness can cause productivity losses of over $1 trillion per year, even without considering pandemics. According to a recent survey, 70% of employees have admitted to feeling burnout because work and home boundaries are blurrier than ever since the pandemic. The outcomes are a decrease in productivity, motivation, and work quality. Furthermore, McKinsey's study on Women in the Workplace shows that one in four senior-level women may leave the workforce due to increased stress after the pandemic began. In short, we could lose women in leadership roles and future leaders, thus undoing decades of progress toward workplace diversity. 

Undoubtedly, employees will experience stress, depression, burning out, trauma, and PTSD as we enter into another post-pandemic year. Many factors contribute to those mental health experiences, such as race, economic advantage, citizenship status, job type, parenting and caregiving responsibilities, and many others. 

Having healthier employees can lead to more fruitful workflows, committed relationships, productivity, and greater employee loyalty. This could be the best financial move companies could make. How can employers and team leaders help their employees cope with new challenges, safety concerns, and uncertain economic times? 

The following are some important strategies employers and managers may choose to implement to boost resilience, so their employees can cope with potential mental health issues: 

1. Create a stigma-free environment

Tabooing mental health in the workplace can lead to long-term setbacks for the business. Mental health must be regarded as a necessity in the workplace, not as a luxury. The cause and effect of mental health issues should be discussed in meetings so that both management and employees are aware of the real-life consequences. Undoubtedly, an unstable mental condition negatively impacts an employee's ability to work efficiently and contributes to poor company earnings.

Also, highlight the number of people suffering from mental health disorders by providing exact statistics. Moreover, companies must ensure that their employees take advantage of the best healthcare facilities available to compete in the larger economy. 

2. Take the lead

There can't be enough emphasis on the importance of having a leadership team that promotes mental health awareness and care. As leaders, it is imperative to educate yourself about the potential mental health effects of COVID-19. 

3. Be aware of mental health issues.

Learning about mental health does not require expertise in psychology or psychiatry. Mental health issues are the main reason one in five companies have long-term sickness absences, so we all need to understand them better. Stress management and mental health trainingare essential to understanding mental health. Since anxiety and depression are prevalent mental disorders, everyone must know how to spot early warning signs and manage stress.

The quality of a working relationship can make the difference between proactive and reactive support, and some warning signs are more evident than others. Establish a culture of trust and support for your employees and attempt to get to know each individual. Having this kind of emotional intelligence will make it easier for you to detect any changes in your employees' behaviour. More importantly, colleagues will be more likely to get their problems out to you. 

4. Create an open forum for honest discussion.

Making mental health a topic of discussion with your workforce can help raise consciousness about the same. To address issues impacting their employees, the HR team should meet with them each week on a one-to-one basis and in groups. It is not necessary to have a formal discussion. Ensure that the employees feel comfortable talking to one another.

Make sure to discuss racial trauma with them since sustained trauma can profoundly impact both physical and mental well-being. Keeping racial injustice at the forefront of your workplace is a fundamental component of a healthy workplace. By creating a forum like this, employers and employees will be able to develop an understanding. By doing so, employers can prevent problems before they happen. 

5. Ensure a Positive Working Environment

Every job demands results, but knowing it's okay to fail can help relieve employee stress. People will be more open about the areas in which they feel uncertain if their managers are eager to help them learn from failures rather than pretending that they can handle everything.

Team leaders who strive to improve mental health will utilize each employee's unique strengths by placing them in positions best suited to their talents. This does not mean that people cannot learn and accomplish essential job tasks, but rather that leaders need to help employees develop their strengths to be successful.

Companies need to solicit employee feedback at every opportunity, including through programs like leadership reviews, suggestion boxes, informal conversations, focus groups, and regular one-on-one meetings. It is equally essential to discuss feedback with team members and make changes accordingly to create open working environments. 

6. Invest in employee training

There is a need to provide more training for team leaders and teammates on workplace mental health than ever before. It is crucial to dispel myths, reduce stigma, and facilitate productive discussions about mental health as more employees struggle with mental health. When you lack the budget to invest in training, mental health employee resource groups are a low-cost approach to raising awareness, building a sense of community, and providing peer support.

Relevant Article: How workforce training can bring huge benefits to organizations? 

Conclusion: Establishing a Work Culture that Prioritizes Whole Health

COVID-19 has caused a great deal of harm to workplace culture. The new normal of work from home has had a detrimental effect on mental health. Moreover, social isolation has become a growing problem. The feeling of loneliness and depression that comes from being at home 24 hours a day is unhealthy.

The pandemic has turned all of our lives upside down, especially since there is an increasing number of furloughed employees. Therefore, employers should provide additional support to their employees in such situations by opening up about mental health issues openly. The goal of mental health awareness month is to promote a culture of open discussion among organizations. Create a happier and more productive working environment by eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health. 

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