Market leaders know that you can’t achieve high profitability without building and caring for a robust and stable workforce. More and more, companies are realizing that their employees are more than the sum of their working hours, sales, or innovation. Your employees are people, first and foremost, and they spend a large portion of their lives at work. And while some workplace pressures are unavoidable, if employees are overall disengaged, unfulfilled, or otherwise disheartened at work, you won’t get their best or reach company objectives timely or effectively.
Progressive companies see the power in creating humanized employee experiences for their workforce. This can start with creating workplaces that support the social and mental wellbeing of their employees.
What Are The Effects of Poor Social and Mental Wellbeing?
What happens when employee wellbeing is not a priority in your company? Research shows that depression and anxiety in the workplace cost the global economy approximately $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. This staggering number will likely increase to $6 trillion by 2030. In the United States alone, we pay a whopping $200 billion on mental disorders, many of which results in productivity loss.
Other effects of social and mental wellbeing in the workplace are a lack of team cohesion, bullying and other psychological stressors (lack of clear communication, bad management, and inadequate support for struggling employees). With these things in play, the workplace, whether you’re in the office or remote, becomes a terrible space and a source of debilitating stress.
Today, 36 percent of workers suffer from work-related stress. The inevitable result of such pressure increases absenteeism and disengagement. It is reported that more people miss work due to work-related stress than illness or physical injury. None of this bodes well for a company’s culture or bottom line.
Why is it Important to Build Employee Social and Mental Wellbeing?
Signs of poor mental health are low mood, difficulty with decision-making, poor concentration, and generally inadequate work performance. Healthy people cope better under pressure, think more clearly, make the most of their potential, and are generally more optimistic and energetic. That clear-thinking, decisiveness, and optimism can be a massive benefit to your company and overall objectives.
Don’t just consider the employees you currently have, but also those you would like to have. That dream team you would like to build, made up of skilled, creative, savvy people, won’t be drawn to a place where people are disengaged. As important as the typical employee benefits and compensation package is, potential employees also want to know that they will enjoy the culture and demeanor of the workplace day to day.
How Your Organization Can Promote Wellbeing?
You may be concerned about the cost of creating and maintaining a work environment that supports your employees’ social and mental health. It doesn’t have to be a distraction from the company’s economic goals, nor does it have to be a drain on your time and other resources.
Here are a few best practices to consider adopting in your company.
Mindfulness at work means to be focused and aware of your work tasks and environment, and to dismiss or ignore distractions as they arise. The practice of mindfulness throughout the day will increase your company productivity, decrease error, and, potentially, boost creativity.
According to research, we release the most Cortisol (stress hormone) as soon as we wake up in the morning. This is likely because this is when we consider the day ahead of us. One quick, but effective, way to release that tension at the beginning of the workday is to take 10 minutes to do a meditative exercise.
For example: Close your eyes, relax, and sit upright. Next, take long, relaxing, deep breaths. Fully focus on your breathing for these 10 minutes, every inhale and every exhale. If it helps to maintain the attention, count silently at each exhale. If you notice a distraction has occurred, simply let go of it and return your attention to your breathing.
Another possibility is to create Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in your company. These are groups to support employees on topics they care about most. They can deal with issues of talent development, diversity and inclusion, culture and beyond, providing the opportunity for contemplative reflection and discussion amongst employees from across the company.
Manager check-ins are a great way of connecting with employees on an individual level. Encourage regular meetings where each employee has the opportunity to share feelings and state of mind. These check-ins, especially during stressful times, may be used to help return workers to a state of mindfulness.
Spur Office Friendships
As humans, we are designed to bond with one another, so it’s no wonder that forming friendships at work can contribute to the overall wellbeing of employees and enhance the workplace atmosphere. One study found that friends on a team outperform teams of strangers. It’s not just more pleasant to work among friends, it increases productivity. Friends are more aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses and can coordinate and distribute tasks better.
To facilitate friendships, allow coworkers space to socialize while at work, and consider hosting social events after hours or outside of work.
Establish Flexible Work Hours
Offering your employees the option of coming in later, logging off earlier, or working remotely, can make all the difference in productivity, not to mention, relieving stress and anxiety. Understanding that individuals have varying circumstances at home and different peak productivity times, demonstrates care, respect, and value. As long as professionalism and work standards are maintained, there is no reason that work hours can’t be negotiated to fit modern schedules and other personal responsibilities.
Build an Ergonomic Workplace
Ergonomics is the science behind designing a workplace environment that is comfortable and efficient. It takes into account the limitations and capabilities of each person and attempts to reduce physical pressure, injuries and other risk factors related to the workspace.
You can equip your workplace with chairs, desks, keyboards, monitors, and phones designed for maximum comfort. Other beneficial bits include foot-rests and the option of standing stations to avoid the dangers of sitting too long. Companies can outfit offices with ergonomic workstations or offer stipends for employees to invest in their own dynamic setups.
Enable Continuous Learning
Not only is learning a life-long process, but it is also crucial to the confidence and self-esteem of your employees. Learning new things will help to keep them actively interested in and engaged with their work.
While 54% of American employees say that they need continuous learning to keep up with changes in their workplaces, about 70% of employees say the opportunity to continue developing new skills and knowledge affected their decisions to stay with their companies. Do yourself and your employees a favor, provide resources for continuous learning in the form of online courses, webinars, printed resources, sponsored classes, access to online classes and videos.
Prioritize Time Off
This one may seem counter to productivity in the workplace, but it’s essential to take time off from work. Whether or not employees can take an actual vacation to someplace exotic, a change of pace will do employees a world of good. The break from routine will make them more productive and boost their creativity upon return to work.
By making time off from work a priority in your company and a practice utilized by your leadership team, you allow your employees to feel they can take times of refreshment and decompression. Time to relax or play will enrich their time at work.
Create Impactful Mentoring Program
A mentoring program should be tailored to your company and the specific needs of your employees – but it’s well worth all the effort. An effective mentoring program will improve employee job satisfaction, increase engagement, and provide personal and professional development.
Not only does mentoring make a significant difference in the career of the mentee, but it reaps substantial benefits for the mentor as well. Mentoring allows employees to learn from each other and feel their company is invested in their development as well as their wellbeing.
Encourage Physical Activity
Finally, consider ways to insert physical activity or fitness to get your employees moving throughout the day. Many of the effects of poor social and mental wellbeing manifest physically (depression, low immune function, substance abuse, etc). But exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on these symptoms.
There are many ways to infuse fitness into the day. Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Propose a walking or steps challenge for employees (tracking steps throughout the work day to see who can log the most over the course of a month or season)
- Create a space in the office or time during the week on employees’ calendars for personal or group yoga/meditation. Enabling employees to take time away from their desks to stretch or think contemplatively can reinvigorate them for the remainder of the day, as they continue their work
- Offer incentives for employees to increase physical activities whether this is walking, hiking, playing sports or other forms of exercise
When all is said and done, promoting social and mental wellbeing in the workplace can provide big payoffs to your employees and your organization. Implementing a few of the practices we’ve listed here can increase engagement, productivity and overall happiness for the people who create and sustain the longevity of your company.