Every Thursday, Mollie connects to her mental wellness app, an AI-enabled model that helps her through her anxiety and depression, which helps her with coping skills and adjustment programs to help her deal with the situation. It’s been a few months since her divorce, and Mollie, who has been working remotely for one of the large media companies in Manhattan is falling apart, struggling to stay afloat despite the company’s mental wellness programs.
Mental well-being had been an oft neglected part of corporate wellness for a long time. While employees offered several bland mental wellness solutions, others simply felt it did not quite matter much so long as employees show up and get the job done.
The burden of mental problems heightened during the pandemic and saw many employers rush to adopt trending mental wellness initiatives to stay afloat and retain some of their employees, whose patience had worn thin and who were tired of conventional workplace cultures.
With the Great Resignation and now, quiet quitting, it's now survival of the fastest as employers scamper to win back their exhausted workers with high-sounding mental health campaigns and programs.
While employees have been overwhelmed by the launch of new mental health offerings, including tele-mental health solutions, improved work patterns and structure, and virtual mental health sessions, there’s a piece that is still missing and that might derail these renewed workplace dynamics – human connection.
Mental well-being is essential to an individual’s overall well-being. Mental health problems not only stunt employee productivity and performance, but they also affect other aspects of an individual’s life, including social relationships, finances, and education. These in turn, drive poorer mental health outcomes, activating a vicious cycle.
There are simple things employers can do to restore human connection back into the workplace and integrate them into mental well-being programs:
Sometimes, all employees need is just an employers’ listening ear.
Employers sometimes get caught up in ticking boxes and setting up these elaborate wellness initiatives that they forget to ask employees about their challenges and what they might need to address them.
Instead of throwing yoga sessions or mental health apps at your employees, have you asked them what challenges they might be facing, and how the organization may provide the right solutions?
Of course, yoga sessions and mindfulness might help employees deal with mental health problems, they may not eliminate the stressor.
Donna Fernandez, Senior Manager, Benefits Administration for Houston Independent School District shared her experience, in a recent interview with Jonathan Edelheit, Chairman of Global Healthcare Resources, about how her team was able to help employees achieve wellness, resilience, and optimal mental wellbeing by actively listening to them.
“We leverage these channels to ask our employees what they are looking out for and what they want to see, and then we sift through these ideas to create concepts that show them that we are listening to them,” Donna said. “This has a way to engage employees; if an employee sees that their suggestion was used, it engages them”
Alex Hixon, Founder of Rural Mobile Health and Wellness, a corporate wellness company stated that the simple things have been left for the grandiloquent initiatives that barely scratch the surface in helping employees achieve better mental well-being.
“What I do in my company is simply listen to these employees, and you can’t imagine how much change is achieved by that simple act,” Alex said. “When employees can count on you to be able to listen to their challenges, worries, and concerns, they feel a sense of belonging, they are, therefore, more engaged and more productive to themselves and the company.”
Encourage Social Interactions
While it does make sense to spend work hours working, people naturally are not equally productive every hour of the day. It helps if employees take breaks, unwind and even take short tea breaks in between work.
Such regular breaks not only help employees bond and get to know themselves better, but it also keeps them energized and refreshed to tackle subsequent tasks.
Social interaction is even a much-needed element for remote workers, who must deal with isolation as a new workplace stressor. While remote work may seem like a good idea to help workers become more productive, it may work the opposite way when employees begin to struggle with isolation and lack of social connection.
Donna explained that her wellness team weaved regular social activities into employee benefits education, to drive the message home better and improve employee engagement.
Using food trucks and social events that provide healthy and “comfort” food for employees, employees are drawn, engaged, and get interactive with one another. The team then provides the information about wellness and benefits at this time, when it is more “readily absorbed” and received.
Donna also mentioned providing the School District employees with access to a relaxation lounge in two of its locations. Employees could visit these lounges during work hours to relax, meditate, engage in yoga exercises, practice aromatherapy, or just listen to music. Donna said the innovative program, which began in July last year, was successful as it left their employees happier, more energetic, and more productive.
Offer constructive feedback in a way that helps employees grow and achieve better results. This model requires a shift in work culture to a people-centric culture and not merely a results-centric organization.
When employees focus solely on results, employees feel undervalued and used. Employees assume they are another cog in the wheel of the organization, another “worker,” and not a human being employed to add value to an organization.
Create a constructive feedback loop that encourages employees to share their experiences handling some tasks, and what help they may need to achieve better results, then provide useful and insightful review about what their strengths are and how they can strengthen their weaknesses.
In providing feedback, it helps to also signpost employees to the requisite resources to help them improve on their skills. Also, if employees are promoted to a new role, it is pertinent to offer adequate training and education to make them well suited to handling the tasks that come with the new job.
When employees are involved in the feedback process, they feel more engaged, more motivated, and less stressed about work.
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