Lay the Foundation
When you work in human resources (HR), you wear a lot of hats. You’re both entrepreneur and coach, teacher and cheerleader, psychologist and fortune-teller. You have to select the right employees, and you have to formulate strategies that will promote not only their success but the success of the organization as a whole.
Now, more than ever, that includes cultivating a workplace environment that prioritizes employees’ mental health. However, that’s not always an easy proposition, especially if company leaders don’t necessarily recognize the link between workers’ mental wellbeing and the business’s bottom line.
But the fact remains that supporting employees’ mental health makes good business sense because when employees are happier and healthier, they’re also more motivated, more productive and more engaged.
Why Engagement Matters
If you’re running a business or leading a team, you might not be too concerned about the issue of employee engagement, as long as the team or the company is meeting its metrics. Unfortunately, that’s a thought trap that’s easy to fall into, especially for senior leadership, who may spend most of their workday pouring over financial data instead of interacting with junior staff “on the ground.”
But HR pros know that engagement is far more than a “fluff” issue, a tertiary concern compared with the real meat of keeping a business afloat and thriving.
The reality, though, is that engagement impacts almost every aspect of organizational performance, from increasing profitability to reducing turnover. More engaged employees are not only more motivated and higher performing, but they also have been shown to boost the motivation, loyalty, and performance of those around them.
Employee Engagement and Wellness
Given the traits of the highly engaged employee that we’ve already identified above, it’s perhaps not surprising to note that engagement and employee wellness are strongly linked. This is particularly true when it comes to employees’ mental health.
And yet, studies show that mental health issues are one of the most significant challenges businesses face today. In fact, according to a recent McKinsey study, 96 percent of companies reported that they had begun to offer additional mental health resources in the wake of the turmoil engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these efforts, though, only one in six employees stated that they felt benefitted by those initiatives.
Making It Work
Even if studies such as that by McKinsey paint a somewhat bleak picture of the state of employee engagement and mental wellbeing today, there is hope. It begins with understanding employees’ needs today and meeting them where they are now.
For many employees, this means full- or part-time remote work. And while the virtual workplace may be a necessity for large segments of the workforce today, that does not mean that it’s always easy. In fact, remote work can take a significant toll on employees’ mental health and that, in turn, can have a highly detrimental impact on engagement as well.
Remote work, by its very nature, can be severely isolating, which can instigate or exacerbate employees’ sense of loneliness, depression and anxiety.
That’s why nurturing employees’ mental health means taking special care of your company’s remote workers. Just because your team may be working remotely some or all of the time, for instance, doesn’t mean you have to give up the social aspects of the workplace. It’s imperative, for instance, to build in routine one-on-one interactions into the remote workday, as well as regular team meetings through video conference.
Similarly, a great instant messaging tool that includes forums not just for work-related conversation but also for private and team chats can help your employees feel less disconnected and far more supported.
Better still, your virtual workplace can be an incredible platform for celebrating holidays, rewarding employee performance, and in general fostering that sense of belonging that remote workers need. In an environment in which loneliness, depression, isolation and anxiety are a significant risk, cultivating such continuous connection with and among your team members can be the protective firewall your employees need.
You can support your employees’ mental wellbeing and engagement by seizing every opportunity to allow your team to celebrate special occasions “together,” from virtual holiday parties to online company game nights, to monthly employee appreciation events, complete with awards, both large and small.
Recruiting for Wellness
Supporting employee wellbeing and driving engagement isn’t just about managing established employees effectively, it’s also about building wellness into your recruiting practices. For example, you can harness the power of social media to begin cultivating harmonious and healthful relationships with promising candidates and new hires alike. In the process, you can both promote your company’s wellness benefits, from discounted gym memberships to access to mental health services.
And the more you build employee quality of life and well-being into your company brand, the more likely you are to attract premium candidates. After all, talent will go where they feel most cared for, not simply as a productive employee, but as a valued and valuable human being.
Nurturing your employees’ mental health isn’t just the compassionate thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. Employees who are healthy and happy in both mind and body are also more engaged, resulting in greater productivity, higher performance and less turnover.
Supporting your employees’ mental health isn’t a one-and-done process, however. It begins at the recruiting phase and continues through the employee’s entire tenure, extending into the physical and virtual office space alike.
Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She is interested in better living through technology and education. She loves traveling to beautiful places and is frequently lost in a mystery podcast.
Weekly news and industry insights delivered straight to your inbox.