Wellness – especially when it comes to mental health – has become a key issue for many businesses. Without proper care and attention, staff can face burnout, depression or simply feel disengaged from the business. To ensure the company is doing all it can to boost employee morale, a growing number of businesses are implementing strategies to help alleviate stress and manage employee wellbeing.
However, with so many options available, it can be easy for companies to choose an initiative that doesn’t resonate well with their staff. This is a common problem and one that often creates the opposite effect to positive wellness initiatives, with employees becoming demotivated and disengaged with the business as a result. Below, Nick Shaw, MD at 10x Psychology, discusses the role that both employers and employees play in addressing mental health in the workplace.
It can’t be one way
It may seem like an unlikely culprit, but a lack of employee input can have a severe impact on the uptake of wellness initiatives. If the employer accepts sole responsibility for creating wellness programmes and encouraging staff to engage with them, the initiatives will never be as successful as business leaders are hoping.
The reasons are quite simple. Leaders of companies often implement these initiatives without a full understanding of the issues that staff are dealing with. Office yoga, for example, is a nice idea, but some employees may view it as a bit clichéd. Alternatively, if staff are dealing with workload stress, taking them away from their desks for a team building session may actually increase the pressure they are feeling.
There are also practical considerations to think about. Staff attitudes and life stages are key factors that can impact how wellness initiatives work. Those employees that may have family or children to look after, may not want an activity to take place outside work hours. Ignoring these personal priorities will ultimately make it harder for wellness plans to take root.
Instead of following the herd, business leaders need to look internally and review what will work best for their particular employees. By all means, they should be taking inspiration from others, but copying like-for-like will only result in employees being wedged into initiatives that do not fit their personality or needs.
Getting everyone involved
Once business leaders understand the importance of making sure staff are actively engaged with the wellness initiatives on offer, they will need to measure the success of these programmes by using tools such as engagement surveys, one-to-one sessions and suggestion boxes, so that these initiatives can go from strength to strength.
Opening up this two-way dialogue will deliver enormous benefits for the business as well as its employees. Mental wellness can be a difficult issue to address but having an open and supportive approach to wellbeing programmes will ensure that discussing this topic is not seen as taboo.
As a result, employees will be more open and communicative, encouraged by senior leaders to speak openly about the challenges they are facing. Additionally, senior management will be better placed to motivate and encourage staff in a way that suits each individual.
In short, by having a joint engagement with wellness programmes, businesses will have a lot more internal transparency, be able to communicate more efficiently and improve their overall operations. However, in order to make sure these initiatives have a far-reaching impact, businesses need to understand each individual and their needs.
Know your people
It is nearly impossible for a company to understand the individual mentalities and needs of every employee. Even for the smallest businesses, figuring out what motivates every single person can be tough.
However, whilst companies may struggle to understand the personality of every employee in the business, they can still predict how staff will react to different wellness initiatives.
Companies that understand how certain personalities respond to certain initiatives will have a much easier time knowing which wellbeing programmes will resonate with their workforce. For example, employees that struggle with stress may benefit from an alert which reminds them to take a break during the day, while others may be more responsive to training in areas like resilience. Knowing who fits where will allow the business to take a much more tailored approach to the wellbeing services they offer.
These insights can also be shared directly with employees to help them understand how they respond to different wellness activities. This will not only motivate employees to look inwards but will also encourage them to buy into the strategies the company has on offer.
Once the company and its employees have this insight – gained through surveys, conversations and monitoring long term progress – they can then continue to grow their understanding of which wellness initiatives work best. The most effective wellness programmes reflect employees’ wants and needs. However, to get the best results, businesses also need to bring employees on board, help them to understand themselves, and allow a collective collaboration that promotes wellness for the long-term.