5 Ways To Promote Workplace Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
Mental and emotional wellbeing is a topic that is gaining increasing recognition as an essential part of employee wellbeing.
As our knowledge of the impact of stress on physical and psychological health increases, so too does our understanding of how work environments and cultures can either support or hinder mental and emotional wellbeing.
Whether we’re talking about developing personal resilience, equipping employees with the tools to manage their workload, or introducing practices that promote autonomy, employee engagement, and trust – all these elements have a massive impact on the mental health of an employee.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what workplace mental and emotional wellbeing means, its benefits for employees, and five key ways to get you started with promoting a culture of workplace mental wellness in your organisation.
What is workplace mental and emotional wellbeing?
Gone are the days of workplace wellness being about getting a discount for a gym membership, having "fruity Fridays" and on-site massage therapy. While all these are beneficial perks, they often only touch just a subset of the workforce and/or are providing only short-term relief.
As our understanding of the mind-body connection grows through science, so does the importance to consider our being as a whole.
Mental health and wellbeing are a state in which individuals experience reduced feelings of stress, are able to manage their feelings and emotions effectively, and have the capacity to engage and excel in activities in which they are interested in, and being able to give them their full attention and focus.
In other words, mental and emotional wellbeing is a state in which individuals feel positive about themselves and their lives.
In the workplace, its importance lies in the fact that it is two to three times more likely to be the cause of absence from work than any other health condition. Depression alone costs the UK £9 billion annually. One in five people report that their workplace culture is a source of stress, and in the UK alone, in 2020, 79% of British adults were reported to have commonly experienced work-related stress.
Why is mental and emotional wellbeing in the workplace important?
Research has shown that employees who are mentally and emotionally well are 6 times more productive than those who are not. This is because they’re able to focus on the task at hand without being distracted by other worries, but also because, when we human beings are stress-free, we are able to gain full access of our cognitive and memory functions.
Healthy and active mental and emotional wellbeing also enable employees to deal with difficult situations in a more effective way.
They’ll be able to handle pressure situations with greater ease and be more productive at work. When employees feel mentally and emotionally well, they’re better equipped to meet the challenges of work, be more creative, collaborate more effectively with colleagues, and be more engaged in their work.
And what is true at work, is also true at home. And with more and more companies and people now embracing “work from home” and hybrid work, the lines between work and home are becoming blurred.
Empowering employees to effectively manage their home challenges and stresses is as critical as it is on the job.
With the Covid-19 pandemic as a backdrop, people's priorities have changed too. They want more freedom, more flexibility, more fulfillment. They want more balance in their life.
5 ways to support workplace mental and emotional wellbeing
1- Promote a healthy work-life balance
As we've seen, employees’ lives outside of work also have an effect on their inside-work performance. In order to support mental and emotional wellbeing, it is important to promote a healthy balance between work and life.
It's about promoting flexibility and showing trust. Letting go of micro-management practices and allowing people to do their job in times and ways that suit them.
It's letting go of rigid schedules so there's no added conflict and stress around family commitments.
It's helping and supporting your teams by setting healthy boundaries. Encouraging practices such as scheduling emails so they are not sent out of working hours, so employees do not feel like they are expected to do the same or be available to answer.
2- Develop healthy communication habits
Whenever you're communicating, consider how and when you're going to do it, but also think about the channels and how many there are! Having to use multiple channels such as phones, text messages, emails, instant messaging, and other team communication channels is a surefire way to stress people out. Keep it streamlined and simple.
Healthy communication is essential for collaborative work and effective problem-solving. Investing time and energy in training employees on healthy communication skills such as listening, developing awareness around other people's thoughts and beliefs will have an impact on the mental and emotional wellbeing of your employees.
3- Create a non-judgmental culture
Employees who feel accepted by and able to be honest with their colleagues will be better equipped to share their mental health concerns. This means it’s important to create a non-judgemental culture, where employees feel able to ask for help and to discuss mental health issues.
Despite all of the strides we've made in mental health, there are still plenty of stigmas to combat. Many people still believe that being susceptible to stress, anxiety and burnout is a sign of weakness and incompetence at work. The first step towards feeling safe and empowered to open up is learning how stress and anxiety affect us ALL, but also affect us in many different ways.
A company's culture runs through every level- which means that if you are a leader, you have to lead by example. Your own behaviour, acceptance, and openness around mental and emotional health will pave the way for others. Through your own actions, you are setting expectations.
Workshops and sessions around emotional and mental health are a great way to open up the conversation, and these work best as ongoing initiatives and programs, not just one-offs.
4. Provide support for employees experiencing mental health issues
If an employee is struggling with their mental health, it’s important to make them feel understood and provide them with support. This may include access to counselling services, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), or other external support services such as therapy and coaching.
It could be having internal resources in place or "wellbeing champions" in-house who could regularly run sessions and workshops or offer specific advice.
In the UK, employees can also be trained to become Mental Health First aiders throughout all the levels of a company.
There are also organisations that offer emotional and mental health "monitoring" to help leaders identify team members who may be struggling. Companies such as Govox, send monthly "check-in" to establish an employee's happiness level, to then send them automatic tailored resources, as well as being able to red-flag anyone going below a certain threshold who will need support now.
In the words of Govox’s CMO “Managing staff wellbeing is crucial for the productivity and success of any organisation. Your staff are more than just a cog in a machine – they are the beating heart of the business. Their mental health is paramount if they are to perform well and make a valuable contribution.
One in six workers will experience mental health problems, like anxiety, stress or depression, at any given time. Fostering an open and supportive work culture goes a long way towards helping employees feel valued in their work and, importantly, confident in talking about mental health.
The Govox employee wellbeing platform provides staff with useful, actionable insights and resources, while business leaders are given tools to connect and offer the right wellbeing support.”
What's important there again, is to have a supportive culture- so that employees do not wait till they feel they've hit "rock bottom" to reach out and access those resources. It's important to encourage them to do so early on, as soon as they experience symptoms of declining mental and emotional health.
5- Processes to support individuals and their team
Having a policy in place that enables employees to take the time off work that they need when experiencing mental health issues will show your employees that you care about their mental health.
Having backup plans and processes in place in every team so that their work can continue, so that the employee knows their workload will be taken care of and so that they will be less burdened than they would otherwise likely be, is one way to support both the affected employee and their colleagues.
It's as important to focus on mental and emotional health as it is on physical health. Many companies employ H&S professionals who can teach how to move and lift heavy physical loads in a safe manner, but what about mental and emotional loads? We're taught to stretch, and to adjust our workstations to prevent wear and tear and physical discomfort, but how about teaching us how to "stretch" our minds and adjust our emotions?
Mental and emotional health is an important component of our experience as human beings, and it should be taken as seriously as physical health in every workplace.
There are two reasons why workplace wellbeing is so critical: first, as a company, you have a duty of care for your employees, especially since 79% of UK employees suffer from work-related stress even before family and financial problems, and second, it's an investment strategy for the future.
By reducing absenteeism, boosting performance, encouraging employee engagement, and developing true fans, you'll keep and attract the finest talents, which is critical to the success of any business.
I hope you've felt inspired by some of the suggestions above and that you feel encouraged to start implementing some of them. The core idea threaded through all of the suggestions listed above is CULTURE.
As a leader, it starts with you, and every one of your employees contributes to it.
👉 Would you like to find out more about my workshops and programs to support your employees mental and emotional health? Click here!