Better Business Bytes: How to instill wellness in your office culture

Since workplaces are where most of our time and energy are spent, employers have a huge responsibility when it comes to their employees’ health.

The extended isolation and uncertainty many of us experienced during the past 20-plus months has intensified mental health concerns across the nation. About 41% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during January 2021 — up 30% from two years ago. That means nearly half of the U.S. population is struggling with mental illness.

People conceal mental health issues for a variety of reasons. The common reasons include:

  • Fear: They’re afraid of what may arise once they begin seeing a medical professional.
  • Denial: They ignore it thinking the issue will resolve on its own.
  • Job security: They’re worried their employer will react with punitive or dismissive actions, rather than understanding and support.
  • Cost: Treatment is expensive, or they don’t know where to access affordable care.
  • Lack of awareness: They’re unaware they’re experiencing negative mental health symptoms.

Caring about the overall wellbeing of your employees not only demonstrates your integrity as a business owner, but it also benefits your bottom line. Research shows that nearly 86% of employees treated for depression reported increased productivity and improved work performance. To add further perspective, the World Health Organization estimates depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

Proactive reminders

Employees often aren’t aware when mental health benefits are available through their employer. And even when they are, individuals often need encouragement to take that first step. Whether extra coverage is included in their general health plan, or the office offers a confidential service that connects them to free or affordable therapists — it’s a good practice to send proactive reminders. A suggestion would be to send monthly self-care tips that highlight benefits available to employees.

Train your management team

Equip office leaders with knowledge and training to help them navigate sensitive conversations. Encourage them to always ask for direct reports about morale and overall well-being. Building trust takes time, but the ultimate goal is for employees to feel comfortable enough to ask for help.

Work/life balance

Provide flexibility for employees to help manage and balance their time. Working long hours is often counterproductive. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance produces higher levels of efficiency, productivity and motivation because it minimizes burnout. Be understanding of everyone’s personal situation and attempt to accommodate those needs. Offer flextime, hybrid work-from-home models or even the 4/10 work schedule. Allowing employees to take a personal or mental health day or occasional afternoon off goes a long way.

Activities that promote self-care

Often people don’t practice acts of self-care because they don’t have time, or they don’t know where to start. Offer guided meditation sessions, quarterly massage days, yoga classes, team outings and anything else that encourages people to take the time to nurture their well-being. Helping employees build those habits will significantly improve morale and camaraderie.

Keylen Villagrana is a content and PR specialist for Better Business Bureau Great West + Pacific.