April 6, 2022
With many workers reporting that their mental health has degraded since the start of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for workplace leaders to consider the wellbeing of their employees. The Conference Board found that not only do most surveyed workers say they’ve experienced a mental health decline, but also women are disproportionately impacted by work-related pressures—more than 1.5 times of their male counterparts. Additionally, nearly 80 percent of workers say they’re concerned about their mental health, particularly regarding burnout and stress related to challenges at work. In fact, the respondents said workplace pressure has contributed more to this mental health decline than the pandemic.

The boundaries between work and personal lives have blurred over the past two years. And as people reenter the workplace under hybrid work arrangements, employers must ensure that their culture accounts for the new stresses and uncertainties of our era. A McKinsey article from the end of 2020 pointed to a coming mental health “revolution” where companies would be forced to confront the problems around employees and diminishing mental health. Beyond the toll these issues take on the employees themselves, organizations face associated challenges like reduced productivity, higher turnover, and increased health care costs. As a result, companies must increasingly put wellbeing at the forefront of their approach, creating workplace environments that facilitate contentment and connection, and increase investments and accessibility of mental health services. 

Employers have a variety of options for putting their people first. Here are three ways leaders can create and cultivate a culture of wellbeing.


1. Make Wellbeing a Priority

Failing to address worker needs around their wellbeing may affect a company’s ability to retain their best employees. As a result, leaders should continue to put their employees at the forefront. By assessing the current workplace culture and seeking to understand employee needs, organizations can learn more about their people’s concerns, how comfortable they feel opening up to their managers, how much they know about the workplace services available to them, and what resources they actually use or find to be beneficial.

This allows leaders to gather data and gain a better understanding of what their employees need, what’s working well, and what needs another look. While information won’t solve every problem, taking an opportunity to open lines of communication and make an earnest attempt to build workplace community will go a long way toward creating a more employee-focused culture.


2. Boost Connection and Community

To mitigate stress in the workplace, leaders should support the development of workplace community and connectionTo establish this sense of community, leaders must be a model for authentic care and consideration of their team’s needs. If employees feel they can share concerns, feelings, or problems openly and honestly with their managers, workplace community becomes more entrenched, particularly when people feel their managers are similarly transparent and accessible. Research shows that managers directly impact the sense of community in their workplaceGiven the increased levels of stress workers are feeling at present, the actions of employers now will shape the trajectory of employee retention going forward.

Many workers are reevaluating their relationship with their jobs in the current climate. Despite inevitable challenges, leaders have an opportunity to reinvigorate employee engagement and facilitate community after a tumultuous period of pandemic-induced isolation.


3. Create Effective Support Systems

A major part of building community and pushing back against employee isolation is the development of effective support systems. By establishing clear expectations, encouraging taking time off, offering flexible work options, and recognizing the achievements of employees, organizations can be more active in preventing burnout and unnecessary stress in the workplaceResource utilization can sometimes be an issue. It’s important for employees to understand their employer’s policies around things like mental health services, employee assistance programs, and medical leave. Through the clear communication of information and encouraging the use of available resources, managers can directly increase employee utilization of these services and benefits

Although we’re living in an era of unpredictability, employers can offer a sense of stability by proving that they understand the needs of workers. Emphasizing employee wellbeing and ensuring that people feel valued at work will not only help organizations retain their best people, but also develop a culture that values support, openness, and effectiveness.

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