Your employees' minds matter: 5 reasons to invest in the mental wellbeing of your team
Ever feel like you just can’t deal with the pressures of life? Would you rather stay on the couch and binge-watch the latest Netflix release?
Let’s face it, we all have those days. You know, the day where you just need to take it easy at home and relax.
You’re not sick.
But you’re not doing great.
It’s a mental wellbeing day.
It might seem like a no-brainer, right? But you might be surprised by the number of people on your team who feel as though they need to prioritise work over their mental wellbeing.
So, if promoting a healthy, and mentally-well workplace is a priority for you... read on.
- Mental Health Pressures are on the Rise
- What is 'Mental Wellbeing'?
- Why does it matter in the workplace?
- 5 Reasons to Invest in Your Teams' Wellbeing
- 3 Actionable Steps You Can Take Now
Mental Health Pressures are on the Rise
When work is good, it gives us a sense of purpose, belonging, achievement, and high self-esteem. The truth is, our minds affect our working lives, and our work affects our minds/mental health.
According to the Workplace Wellness Report by Southern Cross and BusinessNZ on the drivers of absence from work, mental wellbeing/stress moved up one spot to fourth overall in 2021. That puts our employees’ ‘mind matters’ up there as one of the big reasons why they can’t show up to work.
That’s a big deal.
Check out these other facts from the same report.
|Of the 66% businesses that reported an increase in stress levels, 91% also cited COVID-19 as the partial reason why.|
|A typical employee’s absence continues to cost their employer between $600–$1000 per year. The direct costs of absence amounted to $1.85 billion across the NZ economy in 2020. Up from $1.7billion in 2018.|
|Workload remains the biggest cause of work-related stress/anxiety for businesses.|
|Over half of the organisations surveyed believe their role in the health and wellbeing of employees increased in 2020.|
These statistics paint a challenging picture for NZ businesses and their people. Investing in our employees’ mental wellbeing is no longer a choice but a necessity.
What is Mental Wellbeing?
Before we dive into why mental health matters in the workplace, let’s refresh ourselves on the terminology. It might surprise you that the term ‘mental health’ is frequently misunderstood.
It’s often used as a substitute for mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety conditions.
The definition according to the World Health Organisation outlines that mental health is:
- a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential
- an ability to cope with the normal stresses of life
- an ability to work productively and fruitfully
- an ability to make a contribution to his or her community.
Our mental health is about being cognitively, emotionally, and socially healthy and is not merely the absence of a mental health condition.
Check out this illustration which shows mental health as a spectrum.
Mental health ranges from positive, healthy functioning at one end (green) to severe symptoms or conditions that may impact on everyday life and activities (red).
At the green end, we tend to show resilience and high levels of wellbeing.
This doesn't mean that we never experience any challenges but rather that we can draw on a range of coping mechanisms and supports to effectively manage any difficulties as they come along.
The fact that you’re not experiencing a mental health condition doesn't necessarily mean that your mental health is flourishing either.
On the flip side, it's possible to be diagnosed with a mental health condition while feeling well and productive in many aspects of life, including the workplace.
Why does it matter in the workplace?
Because stress is increasing and poor workplace mental health can impact a business’ bottom line through increased staff leave, absenteeism, turnover, compensation claims, and reduced productivity.
A mentally healthy workplace benefits every employee and every business, no matter the size or industry. If we look at the continuum from a workplace perspective, it's not enough to wait until people are in the orange or red to take action.
The ideal is to create an environment where people can more easily achieve ‘the green’ so that they're thriving, productive, and enjoy being at work. A ‘green’ environment is also one where people know that it's okay to put up their hands and ask for help when they need it.
As an employer you have a role to play.
Creating a mentally healthy workplace is more than just a legal obligation, it makes good business sense.
A recent study by TNS Social Research on the current state of mental health in Australian workplaces showed that:
- those who consider their workplaces to be mentally healthy are four times less likely to take time off work for mental health conditions, compared to their counterparts in mentally unhealthy workplaces
- interestingly, there was a high expectation among workers that employers should assist those experiencing anxiety or depression, with 75% believing that their workplace should provide support.
5 Reasons to Invest in Your Teams' Wellbeing
1. It can help you become an employer of choice
Research shows that working in an environment that is mentally healthy is the second most important factor when looking for a job. Workers are also less likely to change jobs.
Research conducted by Instinct and Reason found that:
- nearly half of Australian employees say a mentally healthy workplace is important when looking for a job, and that it was the second most important factor in their decision to accept a new position; this was ranked only behind salary
- when employees recognise their workplace invests in mental health, 60% are more committed to the organisation, and 60% say that they're less likely to seek employment elsewhere
- 45% of employees say that they've left a workplace because of a poor mental health condition.
All of this information tells us that creating a mentally healthy workplace is a critical factor in truly becoming an employer of choice.
2. It helps to reduce absenteeism
We’ve covered this already but essentially, when people feel mentally healthy, they take less time off work for that reason, which saves your organisation money.
3. It increases productivity
There's an increasing body of evidence that makes a compelling case for taking action to nurture individuals' mental wellbeing.
- In mentally healthy workplaces, workers are more committed to their organisation and doing their best work.
- The evidence shows that people who achieve good standards of wellbeing at work are more likely to display a range of skills that will also benefit their employers.
- In workplaces that are set up to foster wellbeing, people tend to be more creative, more loyal, more productive, and perform better in terms of customer satisfaction.
4. It helps with retention and gives a competitive edge
When it comes to retention, mentally healthy workplaces keep employees more engaged so that they're less likely to leave.
Some findings from the employee of choice research (conducted by Beyond Blue) discovered that a mentally healthy workplace that’s friendly, supportive and promotes and protects the mental health of its employees, was the second most powerful inhibitor of a worker leaving their job.
5. There’s a measurable return on investment
For every $1 spent to improve mental health at work, you can achieve returns of up to $4 through improved productivity and savings from reduced workers' compensation claims (from TNS Social Research on the current state of mental health).
3 Actionable Steps You Can Take Now
So where to next?
Step 1: Open up about mental health issues
To start, make mind matters a part of everyday conversations.
Ask yourself: How can I redefine mental wellbeing at my workplace as a leader or manager?
Step 2: Invest in the mental health through learning and resources
Of course, it will never be enough to talk it out if you aren’t backing up your words with policies and programmes.
Ask yourself, ‘What solutions can I put in place to help employees flourish personally and professionally?’.
We can help with that 😉. Check out our newest eLearning module; Mind Matters: Navigating an Ocean of Thoughts which has wonderful tools and resources to help your team support their mental wellbeing.
Step 3: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. At the heart of this is people
Build programmes and provide resources that benefit all.
The ideal mental wellbeing programmes, employee assistance programmes and resources don’t just make for a nice-sounding incentive for new hires; they offer tangible benefits to every person.
Valuing and improving mental wellbeing in the workplace is a largely untapped opportunity for all of us.
A mentally healthy workplace should be one where people can contribute their best effort, be recognised for their work, and go home at the end of the day with energy and positive emotion to spare.
About the author
Mitty's personal motto is “Just be an excellent person” and that’s what she will take into every aspect of her life whether that includes creating kickass learning solutions, hugging horses or jamming on the steelpan drums. Seeing people become their best selves is what excites Mitty most – and that’s where her passion for learning comes from! Mitty uses her strengths as a Learning and Development consultant and creative flair and humour to get down to the core of what makes learning effective for each learning audience.