Struggling to Retain Your Workers? Consider Prioritizing their Mental Health.
Retention of workers is still top of mind for many global business owners. Our 2022 Culture Report revealed many factors that are important considerations for today’s workforce in terms of whether they will stay or leave their current employer. But of all the factors about which we surveyed workers, it was reduced stress and improved well-being that not just ranked in the top 3 but beat out both higher wages and increased career development.
A focus on health and well-being is critical for every organization. When your staff is healthy and well, there is reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, and better morale amongst the whole team. Unfortunately, there is a very good chance that some, if not most, of your staff are struggling with reduced well-being, stress, or even burnout. Gallup, in a 2020 report, “Employee Burnout: Causes and Cures,” found that 76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least “sometimes,” while a full 28% indicate they are burned out “very often” or “always.” The message is clear: your workers need you to focus on their health and well-being.
Let’s first discuss what is meant by health and well-being. We think of physical and mental health and well-being as a person’s capacity to have the necessary energy to do their job and best fulfill their responsibilities while still having the energy for life outside of work. Loer & Schwarts, in their Harvard Business Review article, “The Making of a Corporate Athlete,” defined energy as “our ability to work.” One of the biggest sources of energy drain is the daily stress of our everyday roles. Loer & Schwarts found that it is not the presence of stress that reduces a person’s effectiveness but rather their inability to recover after dealing with the demands of stress.
When you think about supporting your employees’ health and well-being, consider first the ways that you can address their energy. How can you enhance or help to replenish your employees’ energy while removing the things that drain that energy? In our work with clients, we often ask organizations to consider what or who is creating stress and fatigue, what prevents people from recharging, and ways to help people have more energy.
We must acknowledge the presence of stress in all people’s lives and accept that the workplace is often a cause of that stress. Not sure where to look in your own organization? We’ve found that workplace stress is usually due to the demands placed on employees to perform and be productive, with little consideration by managers on how to get that performance without using a commanding or authoritative approach.
Companies must recognize the role the manager plays when it comes to health and well-being and levels of stress. How a manager interacts with their people each day will have more impact on how your people feel about their place of work than any other benefit or perk you could offer. A manager who is caring, respectful, and supportive will ease the stress on those they lead by helping them feel seen and heard as people. On the contrary, a manager who is inconsiderate, disrespectful, overly critical, or commanding will create even more stress in their people. So, before considering specific health and wellness programs or offerings, start by understanding how your managers treat their teams.
Another specific area of health and well-being that needs to be considered is mental health. Mental health has a stigma attached to it, especially in the workplace, but it is a company, owner, and manager’s responsibility to work towards destigmatizing it. There must be more conversation and honesty around the fact that we all have moments when our mental health is under threat.
We interviewed a group of employees at a construction company this past year, and they said that once their manager talked to them about his own mental well-being, it took down the attitude that such conversations were a sign of weakness. They acknowledged that their manager is willing to talk about it and showed them that it was a sign of strength. Often, people just need to know that they are not alone to feel better and take the necessary action to get help on their own. With this understanding, managers and owners can demonstrate a greater level of empathy towards those under pressure by being willing to listen and support as required.
This is not to say that organizations are expected to be experts in mental health and well-being. But a manager or even an HR department having information about mental health services goes a long way to showing employees that they are cared for. Some companies are even partnering with healthcare experts to ensure their employees have access to the help and support they need.
Other things to consider in developing a culture that supports improved well-being is to ensure your staff gets breaks while at work and can disconnect from work. Managers and leaders must be willing to give people the necessary time to take time out for themselves. The best way to ensure this happens is to lead by example. When employees see that their manager takes regular breaks, they will feel freer to do so as well.
Whether your organization is already excelling in the health and wellbeing space or has a lot of room for improvement, we recommend that your first step is to be open and transparent about the impact of stress in the workplace. By opening a dialogue with your team on understanding their own stressors, you can work together on reducing the impact of those stressors. And ensure to ask for their input on what their own health and well-being needs are. We are confident that it will make a near-immediate difference across your whole organization.