Nothing has brought business leaders’ attention to the mental health of employees more than the COVID-19 pandemic. Author Naz Beheshti referred to this growing awareness of mental health as “positive sidepandemic.
Beheshti wrote: “There is preliminary evidence that this diminishing stigma has made people, in general, feel more comfortable being open about mental health. According to a 2021 NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) survey, 52% of respondents said they were more open with others about their mental health since the pandemic began.”
As more employees share their mental health experiences and its impacts on their work, the demands on the job from leaders have simultaneously increased. Leaders cannot simply sit back and listen to their employees’ stories. Action is required. For leaders, this means focusing on personal mental health and building a psychologically safe and inclusive workplace for employees.
Start with yourself
“Burnout” has been a popular buzzword as thousands of employees left their jobs in search of a better work-life balance during the recent “Great Resignation”. However, it is important to remember that leaders are equally at risk of burnout.
According to the International Development Dimensions Global Leadership Outlook 2021, 60% of leaders feel exhausted by the end of their workday. In addition, 26% of these same leaders revealed that they expected to leave their company within the year. Leaders who don’t care about their mental health risk impairing their team’s overall mental health.
“If executives for their employees want to prioritize their mental health, they have to do the same in a very visible way,” says Adam Webber, senior vice president of community at 15Five. “Encouraging people to take time off for therapy or a mental health day is one thing, but most leaders have not yet taken the next step of doing it themselves in a transparent manner.”
Self-care modeling is a great solution for leaders looking to improve their mental wellness. Certified Executive Coach Irene Urban He suggests that leaders take a walk during their lunch breaks or take some time to fully celebrate the accomplishments at work. She also recommends taking some time to breathe and practice mindfulness.
Pharmacist Sanjib Nandi discovered the power of mindfulness and meditation during a critical period in his life. Now, as an author and speaker, Nandi’s mission is to free individuals from negativity and promote self-mastery.
After the release of his book “The Man with Zero Talent” in 2021, Nandi created LOVOOIt is a completely free app for self-care and mindfulness training. The app includes other health features, such as water intake, sleep tracking, step count, mood checks, and gratitude.
“Everyone wants health, happiness, and success, but fear is the thing that stops us. I’ve devoted hours of research into the brain and discovered that fear literally inflates the amygdala, while constant vigilance can shrink it in a matter of weeks.”
Promoting Diversity and Inclusion
Although more employees talk about their mental health, not everyone has a positive experience. This is largely due to the lack of psychological safety in the workplace.
according to Creative Leadership CenterPsychological safety is the belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking out ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.
McKinsey researchers write, “Our research finds that a positive team climate—where team members value each other’s contributions, care about each other’s well-being, and have input into how the team does its work—is the most important driver of team psychological safety. Furthermore, by setting a tone for Team Climate Through their actions, team leaders have the strongest influence on the psychological integrity of the team. However, only 43% of all participants reported having a positive climate within their team.”
Creating this environment requires leaders to learn how to listen and respond with empathy. Mike CooganAn assistant counselor at the Care Counselling Center said, “People need to feel like they belong — as if they matter and as valued by their organization. Otherwise, work can be an incredibly isolating experience — and that feeling of isolation can exacerbate mental health symptoms.” Leaders should consistently demonstrate empathy and understanding so that employees feel they can raise concerns about stressors in the workplace.”
Promoting Diversity and Inclusion
Leaders can build a psychologically safe company culture by prioritizing diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. For example, in a file Study 2021 by Kelly Greenwood and Julia AnasMore than half of respondents (a 13% increase from 2019) indicated that mental health is a problem related to mental influences.
The importance of inclusivity was further demonstrated in the wake of the death of George Floyd in 2020. The Washington Post reports that “the rate of black Americans who showed clinically significant signs of anxiety or depressive disorders jumped from 36% to 41% in the week after Floyd’s death became public, and this represents Approximately 1.4 million other people.”
However, African Americans are not the only population that needs more inclusion. One Mind at Work co-founder Garen Staglin writes, “Employees from diverse backgrounds can experience underrepresentation, micro-aggressions, unconscious bias, and other stresses that affect their mental health and psychological well-being at work.”
Kelly Greenwood and Joyla Anas write: “Demographics continue to play a strong role in mental health in the workplace, with younger workers and historically underrepresented groups still struggling the most. Millennials and Generation Zers, as well as LGBTQ people, have been black and Latino. Like millennials and Gen Zers, responders to caregivers and members of historically underrepresented groups—including LGBTQ+, Black, and Latinx—were more likely to leave roles for their mental health and believe that company culture should support mental health.”
Strengthening a D&I culture will not only benefit the mental health of employees, but will also positively impact business and employment.
Survey respondents from every demographic in A McKinsey The study indicated that they take into account the level of comprehensiveness of the organization when making professional decisions.
The indication appears to be that many employees across the United States are actively seeking bold action by companies to help invest in their mental health and make everyone feel included.