In recent years, a growing number of businesses have begun to emphasise wellness and mental health in the workplace. As of late 2017, 45 per cent of UK businesses were found to have a clear wellbeing strategy in place, following a trend in which the figure has steadily grown year over year.
This increased attention isn’t simple altruism. Rather, it’s the result of the growing awareness of mental health issues in the workplace, and their clear relationship to worker productivity. As awareness grows, employees are increasingly reporting their work related mental health issues, and businesses are taking steps to fight these problems in order to ensure their business’ continued stability and to boost growth. By proactively supporting the wellbeing of their workers, businesses can create healthier company cultures, reduce employee turnover, and boost innovation in the workplace.
Poor mental health is expensive for businesses
For employers, managing employee wellbeing is a matter of profit. In the past decade, workers experiencing depression, burnout, and excessive stress have been found to seriously impact productivity in a negative way. While this may seem intuitively obvious, it’s also backed up by emerging data from numerous studies.
Basic productivity suffers
Burnout and depression result in a lack of energy and motivation by definition, but there are other impacts as well. Research has shown that stressed or burned out workers are more likely to fall physically ill, and aren’t as able to focus and perform even when they’re at work and otherwise doing well. As a result, they simply aren’t as productive as they could be in their roles, cutting down on revenues, and potentially leading to dissatisfied customers.
Additionally, poor workplace wellness is rarely confined to a single person. Since it’s largely the result of environmental factors, it affects the overall company culture. Stressed, unmotivated, and unhappy employees might do what it takes to get through the day, but they won’t work together to solve problems, or help to innovate new strategies to benefit their employer. This, of course, only leads to greater feelings of stagnation and stress.
Employee turnover rises
Ultimately, workers who feel that their work is damaging their quality of life will look for other employment and simply leave. For some businesses, this leads to a metaphorical revolving door of workers, where the typical employee only stays for a few months before moving on. While some businesses that rely on unskilled labour can manage this, most need to put new workers through weeks or months of training before they’re able to fully manage their workload. To keep all their positions filled, these businesses are forced to take on enormous training costs every year.
Implementing solutions that work
While work stress and wellness issues have always interfered with workers, designing and implementing strategies to fight it is a new phenomenon. Clear and reproducible formulas for properly supporting your team’s mental health don’t exist yet, but businesses who make an attempt are clearly outperforming those who don’t. From those who do, there are a few important things business owners can learn.
Identify and manage trouble early
As businesses grow and change, previously healthy work environments can take their toll on employees. Front-line managers are critical in tracking and combating these issues. If an employee begins to show signs of stress, or changes their behaviour in a concerning way, they are the ones who need to take notice and decide what to do about it. Often, managing burnout is as simple as asking a few honest questions, and taking constructive steps to deal with the problem. Other times the issue that’s revealed is more systemic, and requires broader, company-wide changes to manage.
Focus on practical support
Silicon Valley startups are famous for experimenting with different kinds of employee wellness programs. Their efforts range from providing on-site childcare to eliminating dress codes, to providing tasty snacks. What those who are successful have in common is that they provide practical help to their workers. Gym memberships help workers to manage stress, while on-site child care saves time and money. Flexible working, unlimited sick days, and similar benefits are tools that allow employees more control over their work-life balance, and give them the chance to disconnect from work when they need to, so they can take care of personal needs on their own terms.
By taking the time and investing the resources to support their team’s mental health, businesses can avoid, or greatly reduce the costs associated with burnout, stress and employee attrition. Moreover, their workers will be better motivated and happier, while also being more accepting of their work as a part of their life and identity. As a result, they’ll be better motivated to make its interests their own, meaning more innovation, and stronger growth in the long term.