While the national emergency of COVID-19 officially ended in April, the lingering effects on the workforce are undeniable. May is designated as Mental Health Awareness month; a time to look at the link between work and well-being and understand the part we can play.
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report, employees have never been more stressed. Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to stress, depression, and anxiety at a cost of $7.8 trillion to the global economy.
Supporting employees in their mental health journeys has become a business imperative. A Harvard Business Review study supports this shift in focus. Ninety-one percent of respondents in a recent study believe that a company’s culture should support mental health. Not only is it important to the current workforce, but it is of growing importance to recruiting talent who are just entering the workplace. Gen Z, who will make up 25% of the workforce by 2025, consider mental health support a top priority.
The path to workplace well-being will be unique to each company. Here are some thoughts of how to get started in the support of your employees’ mental health journeys.
Top on my list is Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). EAPs offer access to services such as confidential counseling, crisis management support and hotlines, legal planning, elder care and even childcare resources. These programs enable your employees to have access to confidential care and are not a significant expense to the bottom line.
In addition to a formal EAP program there are many other ways to improve employee mental health. Consider:
Company sponsored fitness opportunities. Taking care of the full employee includes both mental and physical components. It is a proven fact that regular exercise can reduce stress and improve the overall health of your employees. At Midwest BankCentre, we provide reimbursements for gym memberships, gym equipment, fitness trackers, and even weight loss plans to support our employees in ways that are meaningful to them. We also offer online yoga classes during the work day. Team sponsorships for 5ks and sports teams can be great ways to support your employees on multiple levels, in addition to heath and wellness challenges. You might also consider purchasing wellness and meditation apps or health coaching services, most of which can be obtained at a reduced rate for the company and then offered to employees.
Our Diversity, Inclusion, Culture and Engagement Committee (DICE) plays an important role in our wellness efforts. Comprised of employee volunteers, over twenty percent of our workforce chooses to be part of this committee. Recognizing the importance of mental health, this year we created a sub-committee focuses on mental health opportunities. They help create an environment where employees can show up as their authentic selves. The structure provides an opportunity for all team members, regardless of position within the organization, to have leadership roles and gain leadership skills. This all leads to greater engagement, a critical marker in the mental health of an organization.
Remote and Flexible Work: Employees who work remotely often say they're happier, more productive and more likely to stay with their employer. 81% of hybrid workers who responded to a recent survey shared that they have more time to spend with others or on their health and well-being. Fortune reported in March of 2023 that hybrid workers are exercising and sleeping more and reporting better mental health than before the pandemic.
As HR professionals, we provide the link between work and well-being. Our efforts to promote positive mental health helps employees flourish in their roles, manage stress and boost resilience. Ultimately it allows each individual to reach their highest potential. The result is not only a productive, engaged workforce, but thriving individuals, families and communities.
And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget the fun. It’s amazing how a smile can change someone’s day.
Originally published in Small Business Monthly's in May of 2023 by Julie Tuggle-Nguyen, EVP of Human Resources