Why Prioritizing Mental Health is Good for Employees and Employers

mental health
Credit: Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

By Deb LaMere, Chief Human Resources Officer, Datasite

The pandemic has pushed government and business leaders to find creative solutions to a variety of challenges, from social and public health issues to the overall environment and the world of work. While businesses have typically focused less on political, social, and environmental challenges, these issues have now become major concerns that companies and their leaders can no longer ignore. In fact, research shows that most people believe CEOs should hold themselves accountable to the public – not just to their board of directors or stockholders – and more than 85% of people say CEOs must lead on societal issues.

If they haven’t already, clearly businesses and their leaders need to step up, and start speaking and acting on social issues. Over the last 18 months, the CEO for my company, Datasite, has spoken out and acted on several key social topics. Earlier this month, he (and we) did so again, when we acknowledged World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Mental Health Day seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. With the pandemic negatively affecting so many people’s mental health, this year’s theme of making mental health care a reality for all is a great opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their potential to be a force for positive change. In so doing, company leaders may not only support their employees, but they may also find that having happier and healthier workers leads to greater productivity.

Business can address employee wellness in a few ways. Research shows there are three factors that can influence worker well-being. These include the demands of the job, the ability to make decisions, and social support. Workers whose jobs have high demands, low decision capabilities, and low social support have a higher risk of poor well-being. In other words, businesses that offer jobs with reasonable workloads, give employees fair control over their working conditions and schedule, and train managers to respond to employees with empathy and flexibility, will see higher levels of engagement, and job satisfaction. They are also likely to see less turnover among their employees; something plaguing many industries right now.

So, how can businesses ensure these three factors are being met?

Setting and establishing the right environment can go a long way to supporting employee well-being. For example, to continue to attract and retain talent especially in the competitive technology and software industry, companies will need to go even further in providing attractive benefits and creating and maintaining a culture that is flexible and makes employees feel connected and seen.

Providing managers with appropriate training can also have a big impact on worker well-being. When the pandemic hit, entire global workforces had to move to remote work almost immediately. This was a time for global managers and company leaders to step up to ensure employees were able to focus on their physical and mental health amidst the uncertainty of the world.

The ability to balance the demands of the job and each worker’s personal life became essential, and ‘people first’ became the mantra of corporate America. Some companies offered benefits such as financial stipends to offset financial hardships during this time, while others worked internally to provide managers with training so they could help their teams deal with concerns like financial pressures, social isolation, childcare, mental health, tech issues, elder care, or distractions at home.

Whether it was extra mental health recharge days, or company leadership encouraging teams to actually take breaks in the day, the question of how companies supported employees during the pandemic is now at top of the list for today’s job seekers.

Companies that failed to support employees during the pandemic today may be facing the ‘Great Resignation,’ and further evidence that employers need to prioritize mental health in the workplace.

Leading with care, and providing employees with resources or activities, such as instructor-led virtual meditation sessions, can go a long way in addressing mental wellness at work.

Businesses and their leaders must help destigmatize mental health. This summer, sports stars Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles showed the entire world that mental health and self-care must come first, even when it means stepping away from big events like the Olympics or French Open. Of course, when it comes to business, some workers may prefer not to contribute to company-wide discussions or events. That’s why providing individual support is just as important.

Having programs that address mental health or help raise awareness can be a powerful way of supporting employees at an individual level. Donations to organizations such as the World Federation of Mental Health can also show employees, customers and stakeholders how much mental health matters.

The benefits of good mental health and wellbeing are equally important for employees and employers. Prioritizing mental health in the workplace can help make employees more resilient. Employees with good mental health can focus better and be more productive. Establishing and sustaining a workplace that promotes and supports good mental health and wellbeing is good business now and in the long term.

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