7x7 EVP Framework, Part Three: Employee Wellbeing and Mental Health

Approximately one in five Australian employees experienced mental health conditions according to research conducted by Medibank Private in 2020. This costs the Australian economy a staggering $17 billion annually as a result of increased absenteeism and presenteeism and reduced productivity.

However, businesses gain an average return on investment of $2.30 for every dollar invested in workplace wellbeing strategies. Prioritising employee wellbeing not only enhances employee satisfaction, productivity and job performance but also works toward reducing the ‘human cost’ of mental illness in your organisation and community. It’s a win-win for all. 

So, what can you do to improve mental health and wellness as part of your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)? In this post, we discuss the varied employee needs to be considered and key steps forward for organisations. 

What prevents employee wellbeing?

To get started on your journey to improving employee wellness, it is useful to recognise the key causes that create an unhealthy workplace, such as:

  • Workload and job demands. Employees who have high job demands without sufficient resources and support to manage their workload can experience stress, burnout, and other mental health concerns.
  • Strained relationships. Workplace conflicts, lack of communication, and negative relationships with colleagues or supervisors can create feelings of isolation and undermine employee mental health.
  • Poor work-life balance. Difficulty balancing work and personal life can create feelings of overwhelm, and fatigue and reduce productivity.
  • Job insecurity and uncertainty. Employees who feel uncertain about the stability of their job or experience job insecurity can experience anxiety and stress.
  • Bullying and harassment. Bullying and harassment in the workplace can create a toxic environment that negatively impacts employees.
  • Toxic work culture. An organisational culture that values overwork, discourages taking breaks, and fails to prioritise employee mental health and wellbeing will contribute to poor mental health outcomes.

It's important to note that these factors can be interrelated, and addressing one can have a positive impact on other factors. For example, improving work-life balance can reduce workload stress and improve mental health, while improving communication and relationships can create a more positive workplace culture.

Stress, wellbeing and turnover across demographics

Stress, wellbeing, and retention can affect employees of all demographics, but some research has indicated that certain groups may be more likely to experience these issues.

Stress: Stress can affect employees of all ages, genders and levels of seniority. However, work-related stressors such as job insecurity, long working hours and high workloads may make some employees, such as those in high-pressure or high-demand jobs, more susceptible to stress.

Wellbeing: Research has shown that certain demographic groups, such as women, minority groups and lower-income employees, may be more likely to experience lower levels of wellbeing due to discrimination, lack of access to resources and financial strain.

Turnover: Employee turnover can affect employees across all demographics, but factors such as job dissatisfaction, burnout and poor work-life balance may make certain groups more likely to leave a job, such as young employees and those with caregiving responsibilities.

It is important to note every individual is unique, and their experience with stress, wellbeing and turnover may be influenced by a variety of personal, cultural, and environmental factors. 

By taking the time to understand the drivers of different demographic groups, organisations can design and implement strategies that address the specific needs and challenges faced by each group, resulting in a more engaged, motivated, and productive workforce. Ultimately, this can improve employee satisfaction, lower levels of turnover and enhance the work environment. 

sign-up-ctaWorkplace expectations have hit a turning point 

Younger generations are seeking a more holistic approach to work, recognising the importance of balancing their professional and personal lives to support their wellbeing. By offering flexible work arrangements, you can attract and retain top talent from these demographic groups and improve productivity. 

This demographic (including Generation Z), is more demanding of work-life balance due to a variety of factors, including: 

  • Changing attitudes. Younger generations have grown up with greater awareness of mental health and access to resources, and as a result, they place a greater emphasis on work-life balance and self-care. 
  • Technological advancements. The widespread use of technology has increased expectations of flexibility in the workplace, and younger employees seek out employers that offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and flexible scheduling. 
  • Life stages. Younger employees may also be at different life stages, such as starting a family or furthering their education, that require a flexible work schedule that accommodates their additional roles. 
  • Burnout. A global study from Coursera cited worker burnout as the number one reason for resignation. Younger employees, who may be starting their careers, are often highly driven and ambitious. Still, they are also likely to experience burnout from constantly striving to perform at a high level. 

EVP Framework: improving employee wellbeing

Due to the myriad of factors and demographic considerations involved in creating a robust strategy, many organisations adopt a compliance approach to employee wellbeing. This looks like ticking a box for mandated online training, providing an Employee Assistance Program and touting in internal communications that people can bring their authentic selves to work. This is not enough.

Leading companies take the wellbeing of their people seriously, and seamlessly integrate it into all facets of their talent strategy. Research demonstrates this approach has a positive impact on retention, absenteeism, productivity and overall employee satisfaction.

Firstly, acknowledge that employee wellness is not just an HR issue, but a whole-of-organisation issue that requires a culture shift. 

  1. Develop and implement a mental health and wellness policy. Outline your organisation's commitment to employee wellbeing and communicate it across the business. Hold yourself accountable to this policy and ensure it is integrated into your overall talent strategy and activity.
  2. Offer regular training to all your people. Everyone must understand how to recognise and manage mental health issues in the workplace. The business must also make resources available to support those experiencing mental health concerns. Offer employee assistance programs, mental health services, and counselling to support employees' wellbeing.
  3. Lead by example. Your leaders must prioritise employee wellbeing and model healthy work habits. Provide additional, regular training to ensure they are up to date on the latest best practice. Include employee wellbeing as an agenda item in leadership meetings. Discuss ways to foster a culture of respect, understanding and acceptance. 
  4. Ensure your managers are equipped to support employees. It is critical that your people leaders are given the knowledge and tools they need to support an employee who may be struggling with their mental health. Ensure they also provide regular check-ins and accommodate reasonable adjustments.
  5. Promote open communication. Create a safe and supportive environment for employees to share their concerns, experiences and feelings. While having a strong communication strategy for your leadership team is vital, so too is ensuring your people feel comfortable in sharing what is often sensitive and confidential information. 

    This is where authenticity and genuine care and support for your people will come into play — as disingenuous, compliance-based approaches to employee wellbeing can be seen a mile away, rendering them useless for the people that need them the most.
  6. Promote and encourage work-life balance. This is achievable through flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, part-time hours or job-sharing. Even more practical, encourage (or insist on) your people to take breaks and prioritise self-care — and have these behaviours modelled across all levels of leadership. 
  7. Foster a supportive and inclusive work environment and culture. Promote diversity and inclusion and create opportunities for social connection and team building. Encourage open communication, respect, and inclusiveness to create a positive work environment.

A cookie-cutter approach doesn’t apply to developing your mental health and wellness strategy. Every business is different. Your mix of people within teams, across functions and at varying levels of leadership are different. So, consider this and adopt a customised strategy that speaks to the diverse people within your organisation.

Bringing it all together

Moving forward, your commitment to employee wellbeing is not only a moral obligation but a strategic imperative. Building a strong EVP that genuinely prioritises and supports employee wellbeing is vital in creating a thriving workplace. And remember: prioritising wellbeing is an ongoing journey that requires frequent attention and monitoring. Keep your finger on the pulse and have a bias for action. 

In our next post, we discuss how belonging and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) play a crucial role in developing an attractive EVP.


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