We live in an increasingly stressful world. Everything from rising costs to escalating pressures in the workplace are contributing to mental health issues in our employees. Given this, prioritising emotional wellbeing is more important than ever. But what exactly is preventing our workers from achieving emotional wellness, and what can we do to help? These are questions we’ll address in the rest of this post.
Why is emotional wellbeing important?
As of 2019, 50.6% of the Australian workforce had experienced a mental health condition, and two in five of those workers reported that their workplace either caused their condition or made it worse. These work-related mental health conditions cost approximately $543 million of workers compensation and $750 million in life insurance claims paid to Australians each year.
It’s clear that emotional wellbeing, or lack thereof, is a huge problem that infiltrates the workplace. There are a few reasons why it’s important for employers to address this problem head on: first, since one of the main sources of stress is from work, it’s every company’s responsibility to help alleviate some of that burden. Secondly, without addressing emotional wellbeing, we can’t expect our employees to perform their best at work. Mental health issues can affect everything from an employee’s satisfaction with their job to the bottom line.
Barriers to emotional wellbeing
It seems as though more and more employers are investing in emotional wellbeing programs each year. But if this is the case, why do mental health issues continue to be a problem among Australian workers? It may be that the programs aren’t explicitly addressing the most common barriers to emotional wellbeing, which include:
- Lack of education and training. A survey found the most common barrier to achieving an emotionally healthy workplace is lack of appropriate skills in managers. Therefore, investing in more training and education around mental health and wellbeing can help break down this particular barrier.
- Fear of stigma. Even though the conversation around emotional wellbeing is becoming more commonplace, that doesn’t mean the stigma around mental health issues doesn’t exist. In fact, research has found that mental health is the issue Australian workers feel most uncomfortable discussing with their managers.
- Access to the wrong resources. Finally, it may also be the case that you’re not offering the resources that employees actually need to improve their emotional wellbeing. Unless your decisions were backed by feedback and data from your workforce, there’s a good chance that your employee wellness program isn’t aligned with people’s mental health priorities.
In the next section, we’ll cover simple strategies that will help your organisation overcome these common barriers.
3 simple strategies to promote emotional wellbeing at your company
Your emotional wellbeing strategies don’t have to be complicated or break the bank. Start off with one or all three of these strategies to start taking steps in the right direction:
1. Make mental health trainings a requirement
Sometimes mental health can be tough or uncomfortable to talk about. That’s completely natural. But that’s why we encourage HR teams to invest in mental health training – not just for employees, but also for the managers and leaders at the company as well.
These educational opportunities can give everyone the practice they need to navigate conversations about emotional wellbeing, respond with more empathy to people who are struggling, and understand what next steps might look like. While you don’t want your managers to play the role of therapist for your employees, they should – at the very least – know how to handle those initial conversations and connect their direct reports to the right resources.
2. Normalise conversations around emotional wellbeing
It’s unsurprising that Australian employees don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health at work. This usually stems from a fear of judgment or – worse – a fear that it’ll affect their career development. The best way to assuage these fears is to normalise conversations around mental health in the workplace so that your employees know this is a challenge that almost everyone is dealing with.
Don’t just wait for Mental Health Month to have these conversations – instead, make it a normal and accepted part of your company culture. There are several ways to accomplish this: ask your leaders and managers to speak openly about their own mental health struggles; create safe spaces or Employee Resource Groups where people can speak openly about emotional wellbeing; and make it ok to take mental health days.
3. Customize your benefits offerings
This may also be a good time to revisit your benefits offerings. Even if you have an incredible benefits package that gives employees stipends for massages or virtual therapy sessions, that doesn’t mean it’s what your workforce needs. Maybe it turns out that they’d rather have flexible working hours and more mental health days instead.
The only way to find out what your employees truly need is to ask them. You can do this through one-on-one conversations or, if you have a bigger organisation, send out a wellbeing survey to identify the current gaps in your benefits. Once you have this information in hand, you can actually customise your offerings to align with your employees’ priorities.
Don’t overlook emotional wellbeing when it comes to your overall HR strategy. The mental health of your employees has the potential to make a huge impact on their happiness, productivity, and desire to stay with your organisation. Use our strategies to demonstrate that you care and to promote the importance of emotional wellbeing in your workplace.
If you have any employees who are in need of support, be sure to check out The Flare Wellness Network, a free hub designed to support Australian workers by giving them access to benefits and offers, while encouraging businesses to partner together in an effort to support the wellbeing of the Australian workforce.