The workplace can be an emotionally confusing environment. Leaders tell employees to prioritize deliverables and deadlines, while also encouraging them to take care of themselves and seek help. We strictly observe the bottom line and make calculated staffing changes, while promoting cultures of investment and belonging among team members.
The old belief that successful businesses require full devotion and ruthless self-denial persists in many organizations. However, research makes it increasingly clear that worker-centered, compassionate company policies strengthen loyalty and resilience. These policies, in turn, boost profits.
A recent Harris Poll found that 47% of employees felt their jobs negatively affected their mental health, and 43% said those impacts have negatively affected their job performance. Even though 81% of participants agreed that employers have an “obligation to prioritize their employees’ mental health,” 58% said that they are not comfortable sharing their mental health problems with colleagues or supervisors.
Part of this reluctance relates, no doubt, to the continuing societal stigma against mental health issues. Particularly in the United States, we are often encouraged to “suck it up,” ignore what our emotions are telling us, and forge ahead with productivity. While this problem reaches far beyond the office, I believe that the workplace amplifies this damaging ethos. As you might expect, this often creates counterproductive results.
So, as we navigate the Great Resignation, how do we reconcile the need for productivity and profit with accommodations for the well-being of our most valuable assets—our talent?
Before taking any policy steps, leaders would do well to start from two related principles. One, it’s understandable that workers feel stress as a result of the nature of business, which involves competition and an ever-faster pace. Two, a workforce with strong mental health generally yields greater profit, as indicated by both statistical research and anecdotal evidence.
Before deciding where to invest, I advise seeking feedback from employees regarding what supports they might need. For example, the same Harris Poll asked participants if “company-wide mental health days”—an increasingly popular concept—were important. Among those who worked at organizations that did offer this benefit, only 6% considered these valuable. “Company-wide,” in this case, seems to be at the root of their misgivings; the organization decides when to accommodate workers’ mental health, not the workers themselves based on their own needs and circumstances. As a result, benefits that allow personal discretion often hold greater value for employees.
Of course, many businesses can’t provide unlimited paid time off or other expensive resources that offer employees absolute latitude. However, given that 43% of workers report mental health issues negatively impacting productivity, substantive benefits in this area may provide a worthwhile ROI in the form of improved job performance. Without attention, the mental health crisis threatens to drive greater attrition, decreased productivity, and a negative feedback loop that damages financial stability.
Objective outside experts can help you solicit meaningful feedback from employees and decide on the most reasonable and sustainable ways to address concerns. At TGC, we offer employee engagement tools that sensitively measure and evaluate the critical needs of your workforce. We also offer customized, in-depth exit interview services, one of the best means of gathering valuable information about areas for improvement, which can shape future policies. By engaging in a thoughtful and aligned process, it is entirely possible to value both workers’ mental health and the bottom line.
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