Lisa Meyer, Marketing Director, Olaf
According to a recent report from Deloitte, stress and anxiety are thought to be responsible for almost half of working days lost in Britain due to health issues. One in six workers in the UK is experiencing a mental health problem at any one time. At the same time, a ton of research on organisational psychology demonstrates that positive and empowering work cultures lead to long-term benefits for employers, employees, and ultimately - shareholders.
Can you build a healthier workplace that supports mental health, while integrating effectively into daily business decision making?
The answer is yes. And it's never too late! As a famous Chinese proverb says: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
Your business is never too big or too small to start recognising the importance of good mental health in the workplace. It all begins with small changes that eventually convert into excellent results for your company, the people you work with and the economy.
We'll show you where to start!
Step 1: Start destigmatising mental health
Today's business leaders have a significant role to play in addressing mental health issues - both through the health and wellbeing benefits they provide, but even more importantly - by building cultures of good mental health in their workplaces through modern management practices that promote a healthy work culture.
The stigma around mental health at work still exists in 2020. Ultimately, the best way businesses can eliminate it is to start talking about it. Ernst and Young, for example, launched a program called "We Care" to educate their employees about mental health issues and encourage them to seek help.
More employers should take a similarly proactive approach to get the importance of mental health being recognised. And once the communication on mental health inside a business is open, HR departments can (and should) consider offering benefits that provide more accessible mental health care.
Run an anonymous poll in your company - ask your employees weekly how they feel? Do they feel comfortable speaking about mental health issues, do they feel secure to talk about it? Look at the poll results, look at the trends and ask yourself - are you doing enough as a business leader?
Recently, Gallup published five "pulse" survey questions that any business can use to make sure they're meeting the needs of their employees during this crisis time. And if management is failing to communicate or build confidence among employees properly, they can rethink and test out new practices and strategies before soliciting more feedback down the road.
Step 2: Calculate the real costs for your business
Mental health is not virtual. Mental illness is enormously costly, both to society and employers. And your business (even if you're a 1-2 people team) can be equally affected by it.
It's increasingly critical to be smart about gathering feedback. Without reliable data, it is impossible to manage anything, including employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity that all impact the performance of a business.
Look for systems that help you check on your team wellbeing regularly - you will not only avoid costly (and often - hidden) pitfalls in performance but send a clear signal to your people that your organisation cares. And an increasingly more substantial amount of today's workforce wants to dedicate their time and effort to businesses that do care about their employees.
Step 3: Set direction for a healthy work culture
It's worth remembering that culture comes first and sets the foundations on a "company language". According to research (see here), positive workplace culture boils down to six essential attributes:
- Treating each other with respect, trust, integrity and gratitude.
- Emphasising the meaningfulness of the work.
- Avoiding blaming of colleagues, forgiving mistakes.
- Inspiring each other to do the best work.
- Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are in trouble
- Maintaining responsibility for your colleagues, showing care.
When businesses develop positive cultures - they achieve significantly higher levels of effectiveness, including financial performance, productivity, customer satisfaction, as well as higher employee engagement.
Step 4: Look for support systems and reinforcing tools
A positive workplace is much more successful over time because it builds up wellbeing and positive emotions of employees. It improves people's relationships with each other, amplifies their creativity and abilities. It buffers against negative experiences such as anxiety and stress, thus improving employees' ability to bounce back from challenges while building up their health. It makes existing employees more loyal to the organisation and helps attract the best talent in the market.
For these reasons, many businesses have started to establish a wide variety of wellbeing perks for the employees. According to a Harvard study, absenteeism costs fall by $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness programs.
Many organisations help provide "workplace wellness" benefits to employees - from mental wellness to financial wellbeing, from fitness and nutrition tools to family wellness.
At Olaf, we work with a select group of partners across Europe to build programs for our clients to assist in supporting employees. Our clients may choose any combination of solutions as well.
Mental health at work #BeyondCovid
Post COVID-19, the way we do business has to evolve, as current findings are worrying: stress-generating companies are not only costing our economies a lot of money but are correlated to a variety of health problems of employees.
On top of that, the current crisis represents a unique time for businesses and people across the globe, as the majority of employees are now sheltered-in-place and practising social distancing. Our work life, home life, and self-care are now all intertwined in ways very few people could have anticipated. Loneliness, anxiety, and stress - these are normal feelings that many people are experiencing right now, and they can lead to more serious issues like depression.
For business owners, it is essential to remember: before pushing the employees for another "record quarter" - have you ensured that your people have enough resources? Are they in good mental health to again "achieve the impossible?". As a business leader, - you need to deposit first before you withdraw - just like in the financial world. Otherwise, it becomes a perilous journey, where human health is at stake.
Reducing economic insecurity and stress, eliminating non-value-adding activities, giving people back-up, recognising employees' familial responsibilities, assessing how workers are doing (and providing support) are all sensible suggestions.
Your employees are your most valuable asset. Not just during the COVID-19 crisis, but all the time.
Olaf is a modern workplace platform for employee wellbeing, with offices in Berlin and London. Olaf's mission is to enable & enhance workplace wellbeing in organisations, by connecting employees with a broad set of wellbeing perks, making health-destroying workplaces a thing of the past.
Visit meetolaf.com to learn more.
About the guest blogger
Lisa Meyer is Marketing Director at Olaf, where she’s on a mission is to help enable & enhance workplace wellbeing in modern organisations. Lisa holds a degree in Organisational Behaviour from London Business School and is passionate about helping build better businesses.