Jobs & Unemployment

Prioritizing Mental Health May Solve America's Employee Retention Problem

By Jennifer Willis Ph.D., General Manager for North America of dayzz

The Great Resignation of 2021 saw workers resigning in droves. The broad consensus is that many left their jobs due to a variety of reasons, including burnout, low salaries, and employees rethinking their career trajectory overall. Apparently, however, the phenomenon runs much deeper than that. 

Many of those resigning from their jobs did so due to toxic work culture. A toxic corporate culture is 10.4 times more powerful than compensation in predicting a company’s attrition rate compared with its industry, according to a recent study by MITSloan. Especially during the pandemic, when anxiety and depression rose 25 percent, it seems logical employees would prioritize working in a healthy environment over a few extra bucks in their paycheck.

Toxicity often represents a much more challenging hurdle for companies to overcome than something like salary dissatisfaction. While the latter can be fixed by simply adding a few extra dollars to paychecks, the former requires HR to equip front-line leaders with resources to create a company culture that prioritizes and enhances employees' mental health.

A holistic approach to mental health

Mental health has a wide range of consequences that aren't always restricted to an individual's mental condition, and it is important to think beyond the traditional approaches to take care of all four pillars of health: nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and behavioral health, according to Johns Hopkins Hospital. In an environment where employees feel nurtured, they are more likely to stay.

HR is well-positioned for this task by instilling a “Culture of Health,” a study by the Harvard School of Public Health argues. This can be fostered by covering holistic services, such as relaxation classes, acupuncture, massage therapy, or access to tailored well-being opportunities such as the Integrative Medicine program by the Mayo Clinic—all of which can have a positive impact on employee satisfaction.

But even more important than offering health solutions is fostering an environment of open communication between employees, leadership, and HR. By proactively listening to employee needs and their feedback, HR teams can show they care about their workers, as well as understand the real problems the company is facing from its most important asset, its own talent. A great way for employees to feel heard is by initiating feedback loops, meaning anytime employers receive feedback from employees it can be used to create improvements within the company. When employees feel heard, it can lead to higher retention and greater productivity and profitability for the company.

Leveraging technology as a tool to foster wellbeing

HR can also impact employee satisfaction by ensuring the employee benefits plan and policies are contemporary with the expectations of today’s workforce. Almost 60 percent of workers in the U.S. report feeling stress on a daily basis, representing the highest levels of daily stress globally, according to a recent study by Gallup. Digital wellness programs, for example, are great initiatives for organizations to help their employees take care of all four mental health pillars. Examples of this include telemedicine visits for both medical and mental health access.

But employers shouldn’t feel limited by traditional methods when addressing mental health. According to Deloitte's 2021 Connectivity and Mobile Trends survey, 39 percent of respondents own a smartwatch, and individuals are increasingly using wearables to track their health due to the convenience of these apps as “personalized health clinics.”

Analytic tools are used in conjunction with remote data collection using wearables and other technological devices. This results in sophisticated prediction algorithms linking findings regarding wellness and mental health to employees' productivity and motivation, according to McKinsey. As wearables become more common, HR can get ahead of the game by offering these remote solutions in conjunction with their benefits package.

Companies can also leverage new digital technologies that give customized support and mobile solutions delivering assistance on-demand and on the go. But with around 20,000 mental health apps available today, it's consequently critical for HR leaders to recommend programs that fit their companies’ culture and internal messaging. Prevention and treatment solutions use a variety of techniques, from meditation to cognitive-behavioral therapy, and offer varying degrees of human interaction, from chatbots to personalized remote counseling. Some programs are focusing primarily on mental health, while other solutions include sleep, diet, and other physical components.

Corporate wellness benefits and programs also have a significant economic impact on the organization in the long run and can decrease losses on healthcare, workers’ compensation, and absenteeism, by about 25 percent, according to the CDC. Properly curated wellness programs can also show employees that the company cares about them and foster an environment of well-being, all while boosting employee retention.

When HR promotes a positive work environment in which the physical and mental health of everyone is prioritized, employees are happier. Encouraging employee satisfaction can be a competitive advantage and an economic benefit for your organization and a key for employee retention.

About the author:

Jennifer Willis, Ph.D. is the General Manager of North America at dayzz, an innovative digital sleep solution with the mission to transform organizational sleep health. Jennifer has over 25 years of experience in executive leadership within health insurance, leading teams in sales and business growth and development. Jennifer also plays a leadership role in key business advocacy organizations such as Greater Louisville Inc, Oldham County Community Foundation, and Prospect Goshen Rotary Club.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Other Topics