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2023 Workplace Trend: Wellbeing in the workplace

In our most recent eBook , we explore five workplace trends that businesses can’t ignore in 2023. Our second trend is a focus on wellbeing in the workplace. 

A focus on mental well-being will be paramount next year with potential global recessions taking place. Inflation is becoming unbearable for many and causing higher energy and food costs etc. There is a real importance of enthroning mental well-being and focusing on the extra pressures being experienced by employees – mental well-being management will be essential. 

According to the APA, 59% of employees have experienced negative impacts of work-related stress in the past month, and 81% say that employers’ support for mental health will be an important factor when looking for work in future.

The nature of the situation is so dire that the U.S. Surgeon General picked it up and, in response, released a new Framework for Mental Health and Well-being in the Workplace, referencing reports of quiet quitting, the Great Resignation and the challenging nature of work. 

The situation is so critical that just last month, released a new Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace, citing reports of “quiet quitting,” the Great Resignation, and the changing nature of work. This framework should really be a call to action for employers to improve the state of mental well-being within their organisations.

In 2023 we expect that the majority of employers globally will continue to strive for more supportive work environments by offering greater flexibility, whether through remote work, hybrid models or fewer working hours, with many planning to expand their mental health coverage

The 4-Day Work Week White Paper found that 78% of employees with 4-day weeks are happier and less stressed. 

Meanwhile, we are also seeing an increased focus from leaders within organisations to support the mental health of their teams, mostly because they have realised that they are not immune to experiencing mental health struggles. In an article on LinkedIn, they report that research from Deloitte discovered that nearly 70% of executives are seriously considering quitting their jobs for a position within a company that better supports their well-being. (Linkedin.com, 2022) 

While mental health in the workplace has become a hot topic in recent years, with an increased focus on mental health and well-being in the workplace, there’s no doubt that some stigma still exists around the topic of mental health in a professional environment. 

With that said, there are increasing pressures on employees with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, as well as a looming recession, increased remote and flexible work arrangements, and a global blurring of lines between work and life balance, addressing mental health in the workplace has become a question of “how” not “if”.

In a report by Oracle, they found that 76% of workers believe their company should be doing more to support the mental health of their workforce. While many organisations want to help employees constructively address mental health in the workplace, they often don’t know where to start.

Companies need to start creating a cultural norm around discussing mental health so that employees feel comfortable coming forward if they face issues affecting their mental health. Supervisors and leaders of the organisation should be equipped with skills to identify when an individual is struggling and to recommend resources to get the relevant help for employees.

Specific issues in the workplace that affect employee mental health

There are several factors, known as psychosocial risk factors (PSR), that can impact organisational health, the health of individual employees, and a company’s financial bottom line. 

An employee’s mental health can be positively or negatively impacted by the way in which work is carried out and the context in which work occurs. If employees have negative exposure to these factors, there is potential for the development of stress, demoralisation, depressed mood, anxiety, or burnout.

Organisations need to consider all of these in their efforts to create a mentally healthy workplace. These factors are:

  • Balance
  • Civility and respect
  • Clear leadership and expectations
  • Engagement
  • Growth and development
  • Involvement and influence
  • Organisational culture
  • Protection of physical safety
  • Psychological competencies and demands
  • Psychological protection
  • Psychological and social support
  • Recognition and reward
  • Workload management

Workplace issues that can also affect mental health include:

  • Stigma and discrimination
  • Demand/control and effort/reward relationships
  • Presenteeism
  • Job burnout
  • Harassment, violence, bullying and mobbing
  • Problematic substance use

For more information about these issues, please see the OSH Answers Mental Health – Psychosocial Risk Factors.

What is mental health?

Mental health is the way we think and feel, as well as our ability to deal with ups and downs.

Mental health is something we all have. When we enjoy good mental health, we have a sense of purpose and direction, the energy to do the things we want to do, and the ability to deal with the challenges that occur in our lives. 

When we think about our physical health, there’s a place for keeping ourselves fit and a place for getting appropriate help as early as possible so we can get better. Mental health is the same.

If you enjoy good mental health, you can:

  • Make the most of your potential
  • Cope with what life throws at you
  • Play a full part in your relationships, your workplace, and your community

However, it’s important to remember that an individual’s mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can fluctuate as circumstances change and as we move through different stages in life.

Distress is a word used to describe times when a person isn’t coping – for whatever reason. It could be something at home, the pressure of work, or the start of a mental health problem like depression. When we feel distressed, we need a compassionate, human response. The earlier we are able to recognise when something isn’t quite right, the earlier we can get support.

Why don’t people talk about mental health?

Awareness of mental health is increasing, but we still face a world where people with mental health problems face discrimination and can face challenges getting the help they need. Many people who experience distress try to keep their feelings hidden because they fear other people’s responses. 

Fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are among the top reasons people give for not telling their colleagues about their mental health problems. 

When we create workplace cultures where people can be themselves, it is easier for people to speak about mental health concerns without fear and easier for them to reach out for help when they need it. Even so, the decision to disclose distress at work is not one people take lightly. It is vital that workplaces become environments where people feel safe to be themselves.

How to recognise a mental health problem?

If we have significant challenges in our home or work life, the chances are that it impacts our mental health.

Mental health problems can have a lot of different symptoms and signs. As a rule, you should seek help from a professional if you have difficult feelings that are:

  • Stopping you from getting on with life
  • Having a big impact on the people you live or work with
  • Affecting your mood over several weeks
  • Causing you to have thoughts of suicide

At work, we might notice that we are more tired than usual. We might make uncharacteristic mistakes, find it hard to motivate ourselves, make our timekeeping might slip, or we may be short-tempered. 

We may look or feel very tired or drained. We could find that we isolate ourselves, avoid colleagues or appear distracted. We might procrastinate more – or grind to a halt altogether. We may also speed up or become chaotic, intruding into others’ conversations and work and taking on more work than we can manage.

These could be early warning signs, which can be hard to see in ourselves, and it can help to have colleagues who can assist us in connecting these behaviours to our mental health.

If things progress, you might see more obvious signs of a mental health problem in a colleague – outbursts of anger or emotion, absences from work, or not looking after their appearance as they usually would. You may see signs that they have been sleeping less or perhaps drinking more in the evening.

How does mental health impact on-the-job performance?

As outlined by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employees in the following areas:

  • Job performance and productivity
  • Engagement with one’s work
  • Communication with co-workers
  • Physical capability and daily functioning
  • Social avoidance

It is, therefore, necessary to educate all employees about the realities of mental health problems, the best ways to identify them, and solutions for treating existing conditions and preventing them where possible.

What should employers do to support mental health in the workplace?

A psychologically safe and healthy workplace promotes workers’ mental well-being and does not harm employee mental health through negligent, reckless or intentional ways. For example, a psychologically safe workplace would be free of excessive fear or chronic anxiety. 

An organisation’s commitment should start at the top.

One of the most common triggers of mental health problems nowadays is actually a person’s colleagues and the stress of work environments, which only continues to increase their reluctance to seek help and, regretfully, exacerbates the cause of the problem itself.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlined several ways in which a workplace can efficiently and successfully cope with mental health problems among employees:

  • Ensure a supportive culture of understanding
  • Self-assessment tools for employees
  • Regular clinical screenings from qualified professionals
  • Comprehensive health insurance
  • Counselling facilities
  • Seminars and workshops
  • ‘Relaxation rooms’

How do you promote mental health in the workplace?

Use the following strategies and tips to promote positive mental health in the workplace:

1. Promote a work/life balance

Praising employees who work late and arrive early, or expecting them to work from home in the evenings hurts your company in the long run. Without a healthy work/life balance, productivity is likely to decline, and employees are more likely to burn out. Insist employees take regular vacations where they are able to unplug from the office. Don’t expect everyone to answer emails around the clock. Encourage everyone to develop a rich, full life outside of the office. People who engage in hobbies, spend time with loved ones, and take time to care for themselves make better employees.

2. Establish an employee assistance program (EAP) and talk about it frequently

Offering an EAP benefit that allows employees to access a handful of therapy sessions for free is important. But, many companies don’t spend enough time reminding employees that they should access these services. Remind your employees to use the EAP and remind them of their benefits often. Whether an employee is experiencing marital issues or insomnia, EAPs can help employees deal with the issues that detract from their performance. But they need reassurance that it’s free of charge and completely confidential.

3. Reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues or concerns

Normalising conversations about mental health within the workplace is the best way to reduce the stigma often associated with mental health topics. Companies whose leaders have openly been willing to discuss their own mental health concerns and experiences with their teams have had success in creating work environments where employees feel empowered and safe to share their own experiences.

4. Provide supervisors and managers with mental health training

Mental health training for management can cover topics such as:

  • Recognising and responding to warning signs
  • Creating a work environment that encourages open and honest communication
  • Understanding how to prevent and identify potential workplace-related emotional triggers

5. Create a positive work environment (a culture of understanding and support)

Encouraging employees to openly talk about their feelings without any fear of being judged, whether with a trusted colleague or in one-on-one meetings with a manager, turns the vocalisation of mental health from a taboo into a goal! This will result in the employee feeling listened to and understood, making the work environment a place that could potentially help support and combat the ill-effects of mental health problems. All big movements have to start somewhere; a simple “how are you feeling today?” can have a greater impact than you know, which in turn can establish a solid and healthy channel for communication.

What is also important to note is that in order to be able to care for others, one must begin with taking care of oneself. If you’re feeling particularly stressed or downcast, for whatever reason, then it is essential to take it easy and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Participating in a fun activity, chatting with friends or family, or simply taking a mental health off-day are various ways you could adopt to pamper your mind and have a healthier outlook on life!

How to protect the well-being of your hybrid or remote workforce

As workplaces adopt remote and hybrid models, employers again need to face the challenge of how to care for the mental health and well-being of their workforce.

This shift to remote and hybrid working puts people at greater risk of experiencing mental health issues, being less engaged, and generally affecting overall employee wellbeing.  Also, a sudden shift to social interactions and periods of isolated remote work could lead to a shift in the general atmosphere of the modern workforce. Companies that fail to measure and improve well-being could risk team turnover, low engagement, and poor business results. 

So, how do we monitor and protect hybrid team well-being? 

People need to hear that their well-being is important. That they can and should say “no.” And that they should protect the boundaries between work and the rest of their lives. These common-sense principles set a tone that is not only more constructive for everyone on the team but will ultimately lead to greater success. Because data shows that happier, healthier people also have a greater impact!

That’s why we have pulled together some advice on how you can manage this new era of remote working and create an environment that supports and manages your employees’ well-being:

Place ownership on your well-being strategy

For clear strategies to be a success, someone must take control and responsibility. A recent report shows that 45% of HR and benefits leaders say lack of ownership is one of the three biggest barriers to improving well-being in their organisation. So whether it’s your HR team or you bringing in a specialist, make sure it is clear who owns your well-being strategy.

Here are two ways you can do this: 

  • Put an effective data collection system in place for effective and consistent well-being measurement to maintain a healthy hybrid culture.
  • Have organisational structures that make it clear who is accountable for new well-being initiatives and strategies, and be sure to reflect this in senior leadership meetings.

Have senior leaders play a critical role

Alyx Gilham, People and Culture Partner at Hibob, says, “The involvement of managers can help streamline processes and foster a positive company culture in order to drive employee engagement.”

With day-to-day responsibility for their team members’ welfare, senior leaders have a crucial role to play in identifying signs that people are struggling. You should empower them to step up and ensure they are on top of their teams. 

Here are two ways you can do this: 

  • Ensure senior leaders practice, reinforce and normalise hybrid behaviours to show they are taken seriously at the top. 
  • Create healthy hybrid feedback loops between employees and senior leaders with clear communication channels for questions to be raised or concerns to be addressed.

Take a holistic approach to workplace wellness

It is easy with a hybrid workforce to forget that everyone has things going on both at work and at home. 81% of HR leaders recognise that it is vital to consider all aspects of employees’ lives, inside and outside work, for their emotional well-being. You need to make sure your employees still feel supported even if they aren’t always in the office.

Here is how you can do this: 

  • Make sure you encourage everyone to be compassionate to others and to take interest in each other’s lives. 
  • Use language that conveys your understanding of how they feel and the challenges that people are facing on a daily basis, especially with hybrid working. 
  • Ask your employees if they have everything they need to be happy and productive.

Create a transparent and open culture

Paying attention to your internal communication and ensuring you are totally transparent with your employees is key to fostering a strong well-being culture. People not only want transparency around moving to a hybrid workforce but also want to be kept up-to-date with the latest company developments. In fact, 80% of people want their employers to keep them updated about company news. 

Lukas Roth, VP of Growth at Ben, says, “We found daily touch-points via team stand-ups and weekly team meetings to be highly effective to ensure everyone is aligned and aware of what’s going on in each function.”

Here are two ways you can do this:

  • Not only set up communication through channels such as Slack, Zoom, and Notion but also encourage in-person meetings. 
  • Constantly share good news stories and your business goals and objectives with everyone so they know they are contributing and don’t feel isolated.

Encourage people to switch off

Will Allen-Marsh, Partner at Spill, says, “When it comes to wellbeing in a hybrid workplace, it’s easy for work communication to run over into the evenings, affecting our ability to switch off and increasing chances of stress and anxiety.”  

It’s important to encourage employees to set boundaries and give themselves enough time to rest in the evenings and weekends. Just because hybrid working offers more flexible working hours, it doesn’t mean your employees should be working more hours. A recent NBER study found that the average working day increased by 48 minutes over the last year. 

Here is how you can do this: 

  • Launch a right-to-disconnect policy that makes it easier for people to switch off outside of work. Check out the employee wellbeing platform, Spill’s, right to disconnect policy. 
  • Have days where employees take time off to relax and recharge to ensure everyone is properly rested for their own personal well-being.

Empower staff with the right tools

For employees to remain happy and engaged in any environment, they should have the same access to valuable tools regardless of where they are. The cloud offers a simple environment where business leaders can support employees with access to the same UCaaS tools, contact centre equipment, and other valuable technology.  

Aside from delivering the right software, business leaders will also need to ensure that their teams are equipped in other ways. VPNs that ensure secure connections to digital environments could be a must-have for some organisations. Access to cameras and microphones for video conferencing may be necessary for employees working from home.

Use video for consistent engagement

Human beings need social interaction. For employees who spend days in the office, it’s easy to connect with other people. For staff working remotely, it’s not so simple. Video is one of the most powerful tools for replicating the face-to-face interactions that we need. It’s also a valuable way to recognise signs of distress in employees.  

Ensuring your employees have access to video conferencing software and they know how to use it is essential. However, it’s also important to set boundaries on how to use video. Teams should know which discussions demand video presence and which are one-on-one or group conversations. Employees should also know how to schedule video meetings regularly and consistently.

Promote proper balance

Before COVID-19 arrived, one of the biggest worries that business leaders had about remote work was that it would lead to procrastination. What was really discovered was that people working remotely tend to work longer and harder than their counterparts. While this is great for productivity purposes, it also means that your employees are more likely to burnout.  

Today’s business leaders should be giving employees more control over how they manage their schedule, to reduce feelings of overwhelm.

Create clarity

Shifting to a hybrid work environment will be more difficult for some employees than others. For many companies, this move into the new age of work will come with a learning curve. With that in mind, it’s important to offer clarity and information whenever possible. Gartner’s research shows that an employee’s understanding of decisions made by an organisation about change is crucial to their continued engagement. Your hybrid staff should always remain in the loop.  

 

Quick face-to-face conversations with employees to provide information about their roles, what they need to do next, and which changes are coming are far more immersive than email updates. Video conversations that keep staff members engaged and informed help to create a stronger sense of company culture.  

Provide your employees with regular updates and insights into what’s happening in your business, and set expectations on how you expect them to behave and which values you consider important. Studies show that during periods of uncertainty, employee misconduct increases by 33%. Make sure your employees know exactly what’s expected of them.

Increase recognition

It’s easy to remember to give a pat on the back to people you see in the office. However, in a hybrid work environment, this could easily lead to an imbalance between the rewards given to different team members. With that in mind, it’s important to set up a recognition system that supports both groups equally. Effective recognition motivates the person in question while simultaneously reminding other employees of the behaviour they need to emulate.

Create a “support” program

Around 79% of British employees say they have stress related to work these days. Despite this, most staff members suffer in silence and refuse to reach out for help. It’s even easier for struggling team members to slip under the radar in a hybrid working environment. A support program can follow any format that you believe is helpful to your employees.  

Some companies might offer articles, guidance, and support on how to deal with common issues of stress and overwhelm. Others will invest in apps for employees to use to handle their stress experiences, like Headspace, or create a policy for employees to use when they need to reach out for support or a one-on-one with a business manager.

The new hybrid workforce is a challenge for everyone. No one knows the perfect way of managing it and most companies are learning as they go along. But whilst you find your footing it is important to always bear your employees’ wellbeing in mind, appreciating that it is just as difficult for them as it is for you in finding the right way to work. But with the right mindset and dedication to your team and following the above advice as you go along, you will be giving yourself the best shot at maintaining strong employee wellbeing in your business. 

Download our full eBook to learn more about some of the other 2023 Workplace Trends.

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