During the first few weeks of 2023, I’ve had the opportunity to be with clients in their offices, with colleagues at an educational conference, and with those I volunteer with in the community. I’m always inspired by a new year ripe with hope that accompanies a fresh start. We make resolutions for all sorts of things, some we keep and some get lost along the way.
However, the often-burdened tone of recent conversations has dampened my enthusiasm. Many have entered the new year feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out. Anxiety from large-scale layoffs have left some out of work and others carrying larger loads. For many, especially those working remotely, boundaries between work and personal life continue to erode leaving no time to disconnect and mourn the loss of connection and meaningful relationships with colleagues. And the environment outside of work, from inflation and economic uncertainty to divisive political discourse and an increase in violence, add to the pressures choking our new start.
Even prior to the pandemic, well-being issues were often difficult for people to “own”. Maybe the fear of social stigma or the thought that “others are coping, so why can’t I?” have driven people to ignore their feelings. Should you care?
Yes, you should care. If you’re wondering why you should care, research from the National Safety Council and – and here’s just NORC at the University of Chicago found that investing in your employee’s well-being and mental health will provide a $4 return for every dollar invested (Try the mental health employer cost calculator).
Fostering an environment of well-being will have many positive outcomes for your organization including improved work output, lower levels of employee burnout, and greater organizational resilience.
As a leader, taking the steps in your workplace to support well-being and a culture of people-centric practices is important and will benefit your organization and your team. While it’s not possible to eliminate all stress, there are ways to reduce the risk factors for burnout and better support employee mental health.
Six Ways to Support Your Employees’ Well-Being Promote and model self-care and balance for your team.
1. All leaders (senior leaders, directors, managers, supervisors, team leads) should“live” the company’s commitment to well-being to show others you value their well-being, too.
In practice this may mean:
- Take your vacation days and using them to recharge.
- Turn off your electronic devices when the day is done and tell your team you will reconnect in the morning.
- Model self-care by sharing the actions you are taking, so others will take your lead.
2. Give people more “input” into their work. People spend most of their waking hours at work. A lack of meaningful input to one’s work life can be highly stressful.
In practice this includes:
- Encourage autonomy for how to approach their work. Give them the needed resources and clear expectations of what outcome is expected, and get out of the way.
- Work with your people to determine when work happens. Support flexibility in scheduled hours by empowering people to manage both their workload and family’s needs.
- Listen to your team, assess position responsibilities, and consider redesign as necessary. This is especially true if your workforce is shrinking. Some functions/responsibilities may need to be eliminated if they are not providing enough value in order to keep workloads manageable.
3. Create a culture of awareness and acceptance for those struggling with mental health and well-being issues. Strive for an environment in which those struggling feel “safe” to share their situation with colleagues who are understanding and encouraging.
4. Collect data in the simplest of ways, listen, and act. This is as simple as one question that is responded to as people close out their work station at the end of the day that is submitted anonymously.
Question: How was your day?
- Green = good
- Yellow = caution, things are not great
- Red = stop, I’m sinking or in trouble
Monitor the % of green, yellow, red responses. Use this information in casual one-off conversations, actively listen and work to create safe and empathetic work environments.
5. Create social belonging through small group listening sessions. Gather (virtually or in person) 6-12 people (based on the overall size of your organization) from different departments who might not naturally know each other. Set the scene by sharing the purpose of the session—to create supportive relationships. Introduce the conversation by asking, “How are you coping?” Then genuinely listen. In a world where change is fast and furious, well-being is well served by supportive and stable relationships. It’s an ideal way to gain a sense of how your team’s well-being is changing too.
6. Insert well-being into your employee review process. Whatever the frequency (monthly, quarterly or annually) is, incorporate well-being into the process. Take advantage of another opportunity to get feedback on how your people feel the company is doing in supporting their overall well-being.
What worked a few years ago related to well-being will not be as effective today in the remote/hybrid work environment. The days of a breakroom, onsite gym, onsite counseling, etc. need to be rethought. Consider adding digital options that could include meditation apps, virtual counseling, organized peer and group support exchanges among colleagues that are comfortable with one another.
Investing in caring for your employees’ well-being reaps benefits that far outweigh the cost. Research found that companies that adopt meaningful well-being initiatives create greater trust. When there is trust, people naturally feel connected and safe to share their whole self, allowing others into help.
If you’re ready to take on well-being to enhance your employees’ experience and strengthen engagement, don’t plan your next moves in a vacuum. Make a cross-functional team part of the process to create balance.