Brianne Feinour of the Newtown Athletic Club shares five essentials for workplace health and well-being, and how to prioritize mental health in the workplace.
According to the CDC, “Mental health is your emotional, psychological and social well-being. It can therefore affect every stage of life and impact how you think, feel and act.” And naturally, our workplaces play a significant role in our lives and our overall well-being.
First and foremost, when it comes to mental health and well-being, our goal is not to diagnose or treat our staff members, but rather to connect and support. It is important to note that there may be times when you feel uncomfortable or unsafe supporting someone at work, even when acting within your scope of practice. Never be afraid to ask for help if you need to assist someone further.
It’s no secret employees can get burned out and stressed, along with many other feelings, positive and negative. We celebrate our staff’s victories, and we join our staff members who may be struggling. As leaders, it’s important to stay present in the moment and let your employees know they are not alone. When negative feelings do arise, instead of judging or analyzing them, we can support our staff in making adjustments to feel better. Acknowledge it’s a sign of strength to know when to ask for help.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Health & Well-Being includes five essentials:
- Protection from harm
- Connection and community
- Work-life harmony
- Mattering at work
- Opportunity for growth
The first essential rests on two human needs: safety and security.
Safety is protecting all workers from physical and non-physical harm, including injury, illness, discrimination, bullying, and harassment. Security is ensuring all workers feel secure financially and in their job future. In addition, companies that do a great job of minimizing the fear of failure for staff, reduce the stressors of pressure and anxiety.
The second essential focuses on two human needs: social support and belonging.
Belonging is the feeling of being an accepted member of a group, or of connectedness given one’s interpersonal relationships. Leaders can create structure and opportunities for workers to build trust and better understand one another. This alleviates loneliness and helps workers across all levels value and empathize with each other while helping one another cope with stress and uncertainty. Having supportive work relationships can improve performance and is associated with worker engagement and innovation.
The third essential rests on autonomy and flexibility.
Organizations that increase worker autonomy, or how much control one has over how they do their work, and whose workplaces provide greater flexibility, or the ability to work when and where is best for them, see workers who are more likely to succeed and retain staff for longer. When workplace leaders set, respect and model clear boundaries between time on and off the job, workers report a greater sense of well-being. By not penalizing workers for this flexibility needed, leaders can alleviate anxiety or fears of missing work demands. This helps workers have the time needed for rest to optimize their health, productivity and creativity.
The fourth essential centers around dignity and meaning.
Dignity is the sense of being respected and valued. When the dignity of workers is affirmed and supported in the workplace, it enhances well-being. Regardless of their position, when people feel appreciated, recognized and engaged by their supervisors and coworkers, their sense of value and meaning increases, as well as their capacity to manage stress. Researchers have also found that staff who received frequent appreciation at work from colleagues and supervisors were more likely to recognize and appreciate others. This culture had positive effects on their sense of feeling valued, as well as on team performance.
The fifth and final essential rests on the human needs of learning and accomplishment.
Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills in the workplace. This provides opportunities for individual intellectual, social, professional and emotional growth. Without learning or working toward shared goals, workers can start to feel stagnant, frustrated and ineffective. While learning is the process of growth, accomplishment is the outcome of meeting goals and having an impact. Accomplishment confers a sense of competence that reduces stress, anxiety and self-doubt.
In today’s culture, talented employees seek supportive work environments where empathy and compassion are the norms. Organizations must see workers not only for their work roles but as whole people. The most effective leaders express compassion, empathy and generosity. They communicate openly, often and clearly. And they practice human and wellness-centered leadership by recognizing the connection between individual strengths, growth and organizational change.
Leaders across organizations, together with workers, have an opportunity to reinvest in the mental health and well-being of our nation’s workforce. We can build workplaces that are engines of well-being — showing workers they matter, their work matters and they have the support necessary to prosper. In doing so, we will foster more resilient, productive and successful organizations and communities. When companies prioritize the well-being of their employees, business health follows. The most important asset in any organization is its people. Prioritizing mental health in the workplace can help your workers flourish and reach their full potential, which is what businesses need to thrive and grow.