In the past, many companies analyzed employer/employee relationships solely regarding job performance. However, the 2020 COVID shutdown highlighted the impact of mental health on workplace relationships. Stress accompanying quarantine and remote work arrangements revealed that worry, fear, anxiety, and loneliness also leave their mark on the corporate world.
A manager may acknowledge her responsibility to dispense ergonomic chairs or safety glasses. But does her role stop there? In purely financial terms, unwell employees will take more paid sick days. However, addressing the “softer” side of employee well-being (mental health concerns) will pay off by producing healthier, more inspired workers.
Physically and mentally, healthy employees prove more resilient during widespread or personal downturns. They are also less likely to have unplanned absences and more likely to perform well at work.
How can you play a part in improving the mental and physical health of the people who work for you?
First, create an office culture that normalizes asking for help. Most companies have an employee assistance program (EAP) provided by their insurance. The EAP offers grief counseling, financial planning, and stress management services. However, studies show that only 5.5% of workers use their available EAP benefits. In addition, since society often stigmatizes those with mental health issues, some conceal their concerns to avoid appearing weak or unstable. Leaders can encourage employees to use their EAP by identifying the organization’s mental health facilitators and routinely sharing the plan’s benefits.
Social well-being is also essential. Be a leader who supports workplace friendships. Ask about family, pets, and vacations. Encourage sharing these things by creating a monthly newsletter. Interview a different employee each month. A “gossip column” lets employees brag about their latest grandbaby, the scholarship their child won, or their new puppy. Friendships at work make employees more engaged. Some companies even start a bowling league or co-ed softball team to foster these relationships further. Those relationships build a sense of community, giving people the strength to survive tough times.
Physical well-being is also paramount. Some insurance policies include a program—like counting daily steps—that motivates physical activity. For each physical accomplishment, employees earn points they can redeem for gift cards. Consider building a walking path around the property or providing covered outdoor eating locations. From the top down, recognize and model the fact that physical health is crucial to overall success.
And underpinning physical and mental well-being lies the concept of self-care. Managers reputedly assign workers a slew of responsibilities at the cost of these employees’ health. “Stay late to finish this project.” “Come to work sick to meet a deadline.” This high-pressure business culture may be difficult to change. But focusing on employee health will pay off in the long run.
Healthy employees—both mentally and physically—are productive employees. And productive workers are good for your bottom line. Your workplace relationships will improve, and your company will grow stronger. When you take good care of your workers, you can count on having a strong, healthy, and loyal workforce.