Why Leaders Need to Take Action to Improve Employee Wellbeing

Mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in the workplace, particularly since the onset of the pandemic. Mental health doesn’t discriminate among age, race, religion, gender, disabilities, or sexual orientation – it affects all individuals from all backgrounds and communities. So, why is such an important contributor to our overall health and wellbeing such a taboo topic, especially in the workplace?

This article will explain how mental health affects employees in the workplace, work-related risk factors to control, how to take action as an employer, and the benefits of fostering an environment that openly communicates mental health awareness and prevention.

Read more: The Importance of Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace

What struggling employees experience (and signs to look out for)

Employees who are struggling with their mental health are in survival mode in both their personal lives and in the workplace. It’s usually about just making it through the day and not processing and working towards overcoming what they’ve gone through – be it physical, emotional, psychological, social, etc.

Furthermore, employees across a broad range of industries are experiencing burnout at higher rates than ever before. Work stress, adapting to change, uncertainty about the future, record-high inflation, health concerns, anxiety, social issues, and many other external factors are all contributing negatively to employee mental health across the world.

Overwhelming psychological distress that is left unaddressed and untreated can lead to burnout and depression. That’s why it is up to employers to offer support and provide a safe place to openly discuss mental health in the workplace.

Consequences of poor mental health in the workplace for individuals:

  • Decrease in job satisfaction
  • Poor attitude towards work, colleagues, organization
  • Reduced engagement in work
  • Decline in productivity and performance
  • Little or no communication with coworkers
  • Poor decision making
  • More mistakes
  • Lacks accountability
  • Absenteeism, presenteeism
  • Irritability and other similar mood symptoms

Consequences of poor mental health in the workplace for organizations:

  • Low morale
  • Lack of trust from employees
  • Increased turnover rates
  • Decrease in productivity
  • Poor reputation
  • Poor client satisfaction
  • Less profitability

Work-related risk factors that can harm mental health

In some careers, stress is simply part of the job. But what’s the difference between normal, healthy stress and a toxic environment with debilitating stress?

Read more: What Employees Really Want at Work and From Leadership

Inadequate or non-existent health and safety policies

The purpose of health and safety policies is to protect the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of employees, clients, and visitors. They are also in place to protect employers.

Generally, health and safety policies in the workplace focus on day-to-day issues and demonstrate a commitment to safe working conditions. They also focus on conduct, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and other sociological policies that are in place to foster a sense of community and keep people safe.

The risks that come with poor health and safety policies have the potential to lower employee morale, negatively impact mental health, spark high turnover, invite legal issues, decrease client satisfaction, and lower profitability.

Poor communication and management practices

Poor communication and management practices are often the catalysts to relationship strain, low morale, high-stress levels, and overall poor mental health and job satisfaction.

It’s important to acknowledge that not all leadership styles will mesh well with every single person in the office, but there has to be common ground and mutual respect. Kind, engaging, and genuine communication coupled with practical, supportive management practices are the mark of an excellent manager-employee relationship.

Lack of support for employees

On a regular day, employees can easily feel unmotivated or overwhelmed by work stress and challenges they face within their job or with the people they work with. However, these feelings can become exasperated when managers aren’t willing or unable to help eliminate obstacles or share tools and resources with employees.

Read more: Leadership Tips on How to Foster Community in Hybrid Environments

Work performance pressure

Employees often feel a tremendous amount of pressure to perform at peak levels in their role, despite the realities of external factors – whether or not they relate to work. This type of stress leads to exhaustion and potentially burnout. Leadership should be kind, understanding, and patient during this process and support employees to reach performance levels that are best suited for them and the organization.

Job insecurity

One of the biggest stressors of the last two years has been job security. The fear of not knowing whether your job will be terminated or if you will be laid off indefinitely causes a lot of panic and anxiety – will my bills be paid? Can I keep my home? How will I make rent next month? Can I afford food this week – these are all questions that employees ask themselves when they question the security of their position.

Be transparent about the realities of your organization and the roles that play a part in maintaining productivity. And if some jobs are to be terminated, be clear, be fair regarding their termination packages, and provide plenty of time for employees to prepare. Furthermore, offer support to them in their journey towards finding new employment via letters of recommendation, introductions to your network, and other suggestions that can help them find work quickly.

Lack of psychological safety

Arguably one of the most significant impacts on workplace mental health is the presence of psychological safety. In order to feel psychologically safe at work, your employees should feel comfortable showing vulnerability toward their fellow employees and the management team.

If your employees are reluctant to share feedback, critiques, or tell you how they feel, that’s a red flag and highlights weaknesses in your organization’s culture.

A lack of psychological safety means that employees do not feel safe or welcome to share their thoughts, ideas, concerns, or questions regarding their job, employees, management, or organizational culture. This is dangerous as it leads to poor workplace morale, less transparency and communication, and overall reduced job satisfaction and wellbeing.

Read more: Promoting Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Taking action as an employer

With the amount of knowledge and resources available, there is no excuse for employers and leadership to avoid taking action when it comes to promoting and supporting mental health at work.

Organizations must focus on implementing initiatives for policy change and creation, communication, early intervention, training, and resources for their employees. This could include creating mandates at the corporate level about mental health advocacy, distributing tools and resources via internal communication channels promoting awareness, offering training to HR and management teams to help them identify signs and issues and have the ability to successfuly handle these challenges, and offering tools and programs to employees for self-help.

Read more: The Cost of Unresolved Conflict

Foster a positive workplace

Don’t be afraid to talk about mental health and the stressors that can contribute to it in the workplace. When employees see and hear their leadership team be so open about mental health (and perhaps the struggles that their managers may be going through), this eliminates stigma and opens the door for healthy discussion about something so many of us are experiencing. Transparency and communication will go a long way in establishing a positive workplace with a culture that focuses on the employee experience and their physical and mental health.

Read more: Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive: Here’s How to Achieve Them

Prioritize prevention and early intervention

On average, people spend approximately 60% of their time at work. That’s a lot of time surrounded by stressors, deadlines, shifting priorities, heavy workloads and the behaviours and personalities of coworkers, management styles, and values. Taking an education-based approach to mental health awareness and support can provide healthy coping mechanisms and an outlet for employees to feel safe and secure in their job while managing stress and maintaining healthy overall well-being.

Reduce negative impact

Whether or not you know an employee is currently struggling with their mental health, offering a variety of solutions, tools, and resources for support and treatment will help reduce the impact they are feeling from their symptoms. This can be in the form of a benefits plan, online programs, third-party counselors, online programs, or a combination of these.

Benefits of mental health awareness in the workplace

Removing the stigma of discussing mental health and shifting the focus on fostering an environment that provides awareness and support for mental health issues has tremendous benefits for employees and employers. From helping with resiliency to improving critical thinking, decision-making, and relationships – productivity and job satisfaction will be positively impacted.

Other benefits include:

  • Better understanding of how mental illness can affect a person’s life
  • Reduces stigma around mental health
  • Confidence and ability to help those suffering in the workplace
  • Helps to recognize early signs
  • Reduces costs and risks
  • Creates a positive work culture
  • Increases psychological safety
  • Reduces turnover

If your organization is experiencing roadblocks in implementing these values and need professional investigation or mediation services to handle a conflict or prevent conflicts from occurring, consulting with a neutral third party will help to resolve distracting, challenging situations and empower all participants involved to settle on an agreeable solution that propels your organization forward.

At Global Mindful Solutions, we have established processes that aim to provide insightful, comprehensive solutions with a compassionate and unbiased approach. This allows everyone involved to focus on getting back to work and continue making a positive contribution to their organization while leading a fulfilling role in their careers.

Contact Global Mindful Solutions to get started with neutral, knowledgeable, and effective mediation, facilitation, and restoration services.


613-869-9130 | info@globalmindfulsolutions.com

343 Preston Street, Suite 1100, Ottawa, ON, K1S 1N4

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