Culture Check: Workplace Mental Health

Man stretching at desk

Quite a lot of workplace culture slips have been blamed on COVID-19. Now is the time to start focusing on direct solutions to the lasting challenges it’s brought to workplaces in every sector and to create a culture of well-being.

Workplace now has a few different meanings: certain teams have kept work in the office, others permit a full-time work-from-home, and a growing set have adopted the hybrid setup. An employer’s reaction to each arrangement can dictate the changes and challenges that employees now face in dealing with their mental health.

For the purpose of demonstrating the importance of checking in and covering employees’ mental health today, a nationwide survey plus current research assists in the discussion. The 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson concluded that nearly 60 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs since the beginning of 2021. Reasons for leaving included seeking higher pay, but also cited workplace benefits, quality of life, and similar factors responsible for their decision. And though remote opportunities positively affect employee retention, a ComPsych research in the last quarter of 2021, showed it is a two-edged sword— “57 percent of employers think burnout is still affecting turnover and retention at their company.”  Workers cited specifics such as  Zoom meetings and team game nights as key areas of frustration in what can be described as “hollow workplace culture.” To compound frustrations, employee monitoring software lends itself to a steep rise in worker upset.

“The pandemic has created some of the most trying situations leaders have ever faced and burnout is a serious issue in our new world of work,” said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, Founder, Chairman and CEO of ComPsych. “People’s mental and physical health are really strained and they are suffering. Employers must take the reins and actively try to alleviate issues before things get worse.” ComPsych cited that employers spent more on mental health benefits in 2020 and 2021 than at nearly any point before, and yet the data continues to point at growing worker mental unease.

An evidence based approach to solving the collision of forced workplace culture and employee burnout can assume three points:

  1. Rather than creating an artificial culture based loosely upon the before COVID times, nurture it organically by asking, then listening to employee suggestions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for challenges and situations in the workplace that will likely keep changing as we seek to live and recover in this time when employee’s top request is flexibility. Involve HR and start asking the right questions. In an era where lip service comes easy and follow-through gets lost in the lack of sincerity brought on by impersonal remote meetings, guarantee accountability by appointing a team member as implementation chief of the group’s requests.
  2. Show them you care with mental healthcare. Make mental well-being benefits a priority, and know which benefits are useless. The Harris Poll in 2021 reflected that 49% of American workers accessed mental healthcare with nationwide trend of only 20% for the general population. Workers have a 250% greater need for mental health benefits compared to the general population, according to ComPsych. Making mental healthcare easily accessible to employees is walking the talk.
  3. Find creative ways to improve well-being in the workplace. Depending on what workplace definition fits (in-office/virtual/hybrid), finding creative ways to encourage employees to take care of their own well-being should help improve their mindset and situation in the new world of work. For workers remaining hybrid or remote, HR can leverage department productivity data to assess whether the arrangement works before urging drastic changes. Employees cited a need to balance work and life as the top reason for choosing to stay remote, a key marker of mental well-being. When change becomes necessary adopting whole well-being strategies is critical, says the Harris poll. EAPs that adopt an evidence-based approach to therapy provide better results, and drive productivity.

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