World Mental Health Day: 7 ways to make employee's wellbeing an organisational priority

Employee mental health is no longer optional or avoidable. It is now the new benchmark of great employers

Harshvendra Soin
Updated: Oct 10, 2022 12:32:59 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

The change brought about by various social, geopolitical, technological, environmental, and economic factors has reshaped the world order for everyone across the globe. In the new normal, employees are deliberately choosing themselves and working to reclaim their time, energy, identities, autonomy, and passions. There is a shift in power dynamics from organisations to people, from profit to mutual prosperity, and from ‘me’ to ‘we’. Today, employees want more—wellbeing to be embedded in their work experience, meaningful work along with personal purpose aligned to the organisation, flexibility of place and time to work from anywhere and anytime. And, they are not shy to switch organisations to get what they need. Therefore, amidst the great resignation, today, it is imperative for HR leaders to chart the way for great reclamation by building a happy workplace.

Wellness of Business to Wellness before Business

To further our collective vision of a happy workplace where conversations around mental health are not stigmatised, overall wellbeing is valued, diversity of thoughts and differences based on age, ethnicity, race, lifestyle, and social status are appreciated, and where everyone has equal access to health care, we must drive the shift from wellness of business to wellness before business.  

Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety. It is more important now than ever to build a nurturing work culture and provide an experience to employees that is meaningful, flexible, empowering, collaborative, and inspiring. The happy worker-productive worker thesis suggests that workers who experience high levels of wellbeing and satisfaction perform well.

As HR leaders gear up to solve challenges that are unheard of, they must focus on seven imperatives to build a happy workplace.

1) Invest in the individual, not just the employee

Today, employees are looking for both—personal and professional growth opportunities from their employers. For decades, organisations have acknowledged the importance of training, development, and skilling. However, with the lines between work and home getting blurred, it is critical for organisations to invest in the individual, not just the employee. Growth opportunities can no longer be limited to professional development, it is critical for organisations to prioritise the holistic wellbeing of employees. The health and wellness of employees directly influence their behaviour at work, absenteeism rates, and productivity. There is an economic link between employee satisfaction and a company’s financial performance.

Happy employees equal happy customers and ultimately happy shareholders.

2) Normalise downtime

Our brain is only able to maintain focus for 45 minutes. Mental breaks and downtime not only improve focus but also increase productivity. In spite of this, downtime is frowned upon, and companies continue to glorify overwork culture and reward employees who work long hours. This warrants change not just from the employers, but also the employees. While leaders should set the tone, lead by example and set clear boundaries, employees should stick to those boundaries.

Also Read: A roadmap for CEOs to create an inclusive workplace for people with mental illness

3) Opportunity to be a part of something bigger

Everyone likes to be a part of something bigger. Today, employees no longer come to office just for work, but are also concerned about the growth of the organisation, its sustainability, diversity, equity, inclusivity initiatives, and their own contribution towards the same. They want to do meaningful work and their personal purpose to be aligned with the larger organisational goal. Organisations that help set meaningful targets are able to engage employees more efficiently.

4) Prioritise outcomes instead of tracking output

With a remote workforce, organisations no longer need to focus on tracking output like login hours and breaks taken, but on the outcomes. People managers must focus on data over perceptions, outcomes over output and empowerment over oversight. This makes the workforce happy with less conflict on performance assessments.

5) Great leaders are great listeners

In today’s day and age, organisations need to create an effective two-way feedback mechanism. Loyal and engaged employees appreciate a workplace culture where their inputs and opinions are valued. With a robust feedback mechanism, organisations can build a culture of trust, fairness, and transparency that can in turn spark conversations that matter to employees.

6) Build a respectful culture

Most employees are still accommodating when it comes to demanding bosses as long as they treat every employee fairly and with respect. Research studies show that toxic workplace behaviour is the biggest driver of negative workplace outcomes, such as burnout and intent to leave. Respect and job satisfaction have become as paramount as monetary payouts.

7) Reward good work

Acknowledgement and recognition can not only motivate employees who perform well but also inspire other employees to do the same. Positive reinforcement pushes employees to bring their best to work, helps retain employees, and decreases stress and absenteeism at work.

The golden rule for businesses in the 21st century is to provide employees with the resources to be happy, healthy, and productive. Employee mental health is no longer optional or avoidable for employers. Instead, it has become the new benchmark of great employers.

The writer is global chief people officer and head – marketing, Tech Mahindra.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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