There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has permanently impacted our global community, especially in the way that we work and view our jobs in relation to our daily lives. Changes to how we interact with our healthcare providers, and of course how we interact with colleagues, have evolved in several ways. For many organizations, challenges brought about during the last few years have positioned mental health and wellbeing as non-negotiable. Questions shifted from, “Why does workplace wellbeing even matter?” to “How can we positively influence the wellbeing of our employees?” While these questions can seem daunting at first to address in a meaningful way, not doing so will be detrimental to your team members and their mental health.
At Newfront, we take a multidimensional approach to wellbeing that is rooted in health equity. This means that we understand mental health is the product of several factors, including social determinants of health, and employee needs should be considered through the context of their circumstances in and outside of the workplace. In a previous blog we shared the ripple effect of mental wellbeing, and today’s statistics show that nearly 1 in 4 individuals are dealing with a diagnosable mental illness each year. This illuminates a significant opportunity for employers who are committed to employee wellbeing to make a difference by starting with their work environment.
Adopt a Framework
Last year, the U.S. Surgeon General released a comprehensive Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing framework to support workers and help employers implement mental health programming within their organization. Perhaps you already have the report bookmarked but still need to determine how to bring it to life within your organization. The core essentials, based on five key human needs, provide a holistic framework that targets the areas of greatest concern to employees:
- Protection from harm – rests upon the human need for safety and security. With the first essential element, protection includes policies to prevent physical injury or danger, such as an Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP). Considering psychological safety, protection includes regular communication of benefit programs that encourage employees to talk about and access mental health resources like self-care, coaching, or therapy services.
- Connection and community – rests upon the human need for social support and belonging. The second element prioritizes connectivity and belonging through effective diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programming such as an employee resource group (ERG) for mental health.
- Work-life harmony – rests upon the human need for autonomy and flexibility. The third essential offers employees an increased sense of control over work routines through consistent and flexible scheduling. This type of autonomy allows employees to handle emergency or unexpected life situations without fear of penalty which reduces mental distress.
- Mattering at work – rests upon the human need for dignity and meaning. The fourth essential suggests employers build purpose into the work being done and let employees know they are valued. At a foundational level, this means creating an equitable compensation plan to eliminate gender and racial wage gaps, known to contribute to mental stress, depression, and anxiety.
- Opportunity for growth – rests upon the need for learning and accomplishment. The fifth and final essential prioritizes the value of skill-building and transparent advancement opportunities for those individuals looking to grow within the organization. Consider formalizing a learning and development program to give employees professional training opportunities that benefit all parties.
Take Bold Action
Actions in each of the framework’s essentials strengthen workplace culture and foster emotional wellbeing for all. Organizations can leverage the framework to create or enhance a strategic approach to culture change and employee emotional wellbeing. Looking at the essentials as a call to action—are there areas within your workplace that need to adjust to build a more supportive and inclusive culture where employees thrive? Perhaps leaders within your company can implement mental health breaks into the workday through walking meetings, 60-second resets at the beginning of a meeting, or even by exploring the benefits of alternative work weeks. Consider the bold steps you can take—what employees need but you have been hesitating to act on—that will go beyond structural norms to promote mental health and boost employee wellbeing.
Newfront can support your strategic efforts with our dedicated resources that specialize in inclusive benefits, holistic wellbeing, and total rewards. Contact your Newfront Account Executive to learn more.
About the author
VP, Wellbeing Practice Lead
Robyn Cross is the VP, Wellbeing Practice Lead at Newfront. Robyn partners with clients across multiple industries, especially technology, to develop wellbeing program strategies and initiatives that address the unique needs of each employee population and promote holistic wellbeing.
The information provided is of a general nature and an educational resource. It is not intended to provide advice or address the situation of any particular individual or entity. Any recipient shall be responsible for the use to which it puts this document. Newfront shall have no liability for the information provided. While care has been taken to produce this document, Newfront does not warrant, represent or guarantee the completeness, accuracy, adequacy, or fitness with respect to the information contained in this document. The information provided does not reflect new circumstances, or additional regulatory and legal changes. The issues addressed may have legal, financial, and health implications, and we recommend you speak to your legal, financial, and health advisors before acting on any of the information provided.
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